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In re Standing Order Governing Jury Selection

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina

November 20, 2019

IN RE: STANDING ORDER GOVERNING JURY SELECTION AND INSTRUCTION IN CIVIL CASES BEFORE THE HONORABLE KENNETH D. BELL

         The terms of this Order shall presumptively apply to all pending and future civil cases on the docket of the Honorable Kenneth D. Bell in which a trial by jury has been demanded.

         1.VOIR DIRE.

         Pursuant to Rule 47(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court will conduct all jury voir dire, except as set forth below.

         a. Prior to a scheduled trial term of Court, the Jury Coordinator will mail to each person selected for jury service a “Confidential Juror Questionnaire, ” a copy of which is attached to this Order as Exhibit A. Counsel will be provided copies of the completed juror questionnaires immediately prior to jury selection and voir dire.

         b. After the prospective jurors are sworn, the Court will conduct the jury voir dire as follows:

i. Welcome the jury pool to the Court, briefly explain the importance of the jury and thank them for their jury service;
ii. Explain to the jury pool the purpose of voir dire;
iii. Randomly select 14-16 members of the jury pool to be seated (by number) in the jury box;
iv. Give the jury pool a short summary of the nature of the case and tell them the expected length of the trial;
v. Have counsel introduce themselves and their clients;
vi. Have counsel identify all potential witnesses;
vii. Ask the seated prospective jurors (and all later seated prospective jurors) if any one of them has previously heard or read anything about the case or has a relationship with counsel, a party or a witness;
viii. Ask the prospective seated jurors if any of them has special circumstances (including personal obligations and/or medical conditions) that would make serving as a juror for the case unduly difficult;
ix. Ask the seated prospective jurors any other questions that the Court considers appropriate for the case within its discretion, potentially including questions requested by counsel prior to the trial (See IV(E)(1), (G) of the Court's standard Civil Pretrial Order and Case Management Plan). (Note: counsel will also be given an opportunity to suggest follow up questions for the Court's consideration after the Court's questioning of prospective jurors);
x. Ask the seated prospective jurors any necessary follow-up questions that may arise from a prospective juror's answer to any question, including written answers to questions on the Confidential Juror Questionnaire; and
xi. Ask if there is any other reason that a seated prospective juror believes he or she could not sit on this jury and render a fair and impartial verdict.

         2. JURY SELECTION.

         Jury selection will proceed as follows:

a. Civil juries will consist of eight (8) jurors with no alternates; however, no mistrial will result if a juror must be excused mid-trial so long as at least six (6) jurors remain at the time a verdict is returned.
b. After each group of randomly selected prospective jurors is seated and voir dired, the parties may make requests to excuse jurors for cause and hardship orally or in writing, which will be heard and ruled upon in sidebar.
c. All plaintiff(s) collectively shall be entitled to three (3) peremptory challenges. All defendant(s) collectively shall likewise be entitled to three (3) peremptory challenges. The Court may allow additional peremptory challenges (no more than three per party) in exceptional cases.
d. Peremptory challenges shall be exercised as follows: With respect to each group of seated prospective jurors, both the Plaintiff and Defendant shall concurrently exercise in writing any of their peremptory challenges that they wish to exercise as to all of the 14-16 jurors in the jury box (of course, with particular attention to the first 8).
e. The Court will then select the first 8 numbered jurors who have not been struck by one or more parties.
f. The Court will then announce the prospective jurors who have been selected to be members of the jury and thank the prospective jurors who were not chosen for their service (without any comment on the peremptory challenges).

         3. JURY INSTRUCTIONS.

         Jury instruction will be conducted throughout the trial rather than only at the end to give the jury its instructions at the times when the instructions will be the most useful, avoid the monotony of a single final charge and allow the jury to begin its deliberations shortly following counsel's closing arguments.

         a. Initial Instructions.

         Initial jury instructions will be given after the jury is empaneled and before opening statements. Topics covered in ...


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