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SB-658 Jury selection.(2017-2018)

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Date Published: 04/24/2017 02:30 PM
SB658:v97#DOCUMENT

Amended  IN  Senate  April 24, 2017
Amended  IN  Senate  March 23, 2017

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2017–2018 REGULAR SESSION

Senate Bill No. 658


Introduced by Senator Wiener

February 17, 2017


An act to amend Section 222.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure, relating to civil actions.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


SB 658, as amended, Wiener. Jury selection: questionnaire. selection.

Existing law

The Trial Jury Selection and Management Act, among other things, requires a trial judge to examine the prospective jurors in civil jury trials. Existing law The act gives the counsel for each party, after this initial examination, the right to examine any of the prospective jurors, as specified, in order to enable counsel to intelligently exercise both peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. Existing law The act prohibits a court from arbitrarily or unreasonably refusing to submit a reasonable written questionnaire to the jury if requested by counsel. Existing law counsel and states that the parties should be provided reasonable time to evaluate the responses to the questionnaire, if utilized, before oral questioning commences. Existing law The act states that the trial judge should consider, among other criteria, any unique or complex elements in the case when exercising his or her discretion as to the form and subject matter of voir dire questions.
This bill would require the parties to be provided reasonable time to evaluate the responses to a questionnaire, if utilized, before oral questioning commences. This bill would state that the trial judge should also consider the amount of time requested by trial counsel when exercising his or her discretion as to the form and subject matter of voir dire questions. The bill would modify the scope of questioning allowed by the parties and require a trial judge to consider specific factors in conducting voir dire.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Section 222.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure is amended to read:

222.5.
 (a) To select a fair and impartial jury in civil jury trials, the trial judge shall examine the prospective jurors. Upon completion of the judge’s initial examination, counsel for each party shall have the right to examine, by oral and direct questioning, any of the prospective jurors in order to enable counsel to intelligently exercise both peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. During any examination conducted by counsel for the parties, the trial judge should shall permit liberal and probing examination calculated to discover bias or prejudice with regard to the circumstances of the particular case. The fact that a topic has been included in the judge’s examination should shall not preclude additional nonrepetitive or nonduplicative appropriate questioning in the same area by counsel.

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(b) Upon the request of the parties, the trial judge should allow a brief opening statement by counsel for each party prior to the commencement of the oral questioning phase of the voir dire process.

The scope of the examination conducted by counsel shall be within reasonable limits prescribed by the trial judge in the judge’s sound discretion. In exercising his or her sound discretion as to the form and subject matter of voir dire questions, the trial judge should consider, among other criteria, the amount of time requested by trial counsel, any unique or complex elements, legal or factual, in the case, and the individual responses or conduct of jurors which may evince attitudes inconsistent with suitability to serve as a fair and impartial juror in the particular case. Specific unreasonable or arbitrary time limits shall not be imposed in any case. The trial judge shall not establish a blanket policy of a time limit for voir dire.

(c) (1) At the final status conference or at the first practical opportunity prior to voir dire, whichever comes first, the trial judge shall consider the form and subject matter of voir dire questions. The trial judge shall not impose specific unreasonable or arbitrary time limits or establish a blanket policy of a time limit for voir dire. In exercising his or her sound discretion, the trial judge shall give due consideration to all the following:
(A) Any unique or complex elements, legal or factual, in the case.
(B) Length of the trial.
(C) Number of parties.
(D) Number of witnesses.
(E) Whether the case is designated as a complex or long cause.
(2) As voir dire proceeds, the judge shall permit supplemental time for questioning based on any of the following:
(A) Individual responses or conduct of jurors that may evince attitudes inconsistent with suitability to serve as a fair and impartial juror in the particular case.
(B) Composition of the jury.
(C) An unusual number of for cause challenges.

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(d) The trial judge should permit counsel to conduct voir dire examination without requiring prior submission of the questions unless a particular counsel engages in improper questioning. For purposes of this section, an “improper question” is any question that, as its dominant purpose, attempts to precondition the prospective jurors to a particular result, indoctrinate the jury, or question the prospective jurors concerning the pleadings or the applicable law. A court shall not arbitrarily or unreasonably refuse to submit reasonable written questionnaires, the contents of which are determined by the court in its sound discretion, when requested by counsel. If a questionnaire is utilized, the parties shall be given reasonable time to evaluate the responses to the questionnaires before oral questioning commences. To help facilitate the jury selection process, the judge in civil trials should provide the parties with both the alphabetical list and the list of prospective jurors in the order in which they will be called.

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(e) In civil cases, the court may, upon stipulation by counsel for all the parties appearing in the action, permit counsel to examine the prospective jurors outside a judge’s presence.