For several years in Georgia and across the country, there has been a quiet debate about whether trial courts should allow or encourage jurors to submit questions to be asked of witnesses. A 2003 article in Kent Law Review summarizes the issues on both sides of the debate. Maybe I’m a "control freak" (as a certain teenager in my house has occasionally suggested) but I’ve always been a bit skeptical about that innovation in trials.
Now, however, I’ve become a convert. Three weeks into a products liability trial in Nevada, which recently adopted this change, I have begun to see the value of allowing jurors to submit written questions.
We have seen several juror questions for nearly all witnesses. The judge screens the questions with the lawyers at the bench (with a "white noise" machine masking the colloquy), determines which questions are legally objectionable, and then the judge asks the permissible juror questions of the witness. Points that trouble jurors are both revealed and addressed immediately, rather than leaving them to fester. Lawyers can see what the jurors’ concerns are, and how individual jurors are processing the evidence. Even during examination of a witness the lawyer can see when jurors begin to write questions and pass them to the bailiff. Presentation of evidence can be modified accordingly. Moreover, I suspect that some jurors are more actively engaged in the search for truth when they can submit their own questions of each witness.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.