March 30, 2015 • Legal Terminology
During jury selection in New York, did you know that there is one instance where a lawyer can ask the trial assignment judge for additional opportunities to remove jurors from jury selection without giving any reasons?
What are Peremptory Challenges?
When lawyers of both sides go into the room to pick a jury, each attorney has what is called peremptory challenges. This means each lawyer has the opportunity to take off different potential jurors, without having to give any reasons whatsoever.
However, there is a problem here, because each attorney is given only three of these peremptory challenges. If the number of lawyers on each side are the same then the scales are balanced. Suppose each side has one attorney, then each side will have three peremptory challenges, where each lawyer will be able to remove three prospective jurors without giving any reasons.
Unequal Number of Peremptory Challenges
However, what happens in your personal injury case, when you have sued more than one party, or four to five different companies, and each company is represented by four to five defense lawyers? Your lawyer will still have only three peremptory challenges to take off three potential jurors without assigning any reasons. On the other hand, each of the defense attorneys will have the same opportunity, which means three peremptory challenges per lawyer.
Hence, now, you will have three opportunities, but the defense will collectively have nine, twelve, or even more opportunities, depending on the number of parties you have sued and the number of lawyer each of these parties have hired. All the defense parties can collectively come together and take off jurors they do not like. You on the other hand are stuck and cannot do much since you might have liked those jurors.
The need for Additional Peremptory Challenges
In instances, where the defense clearly outweighs the number of opportunities you have to take off a juror without giving any reasons, you can then ask the trial assignment judge for additional peremptory challenges. Your lawyer can bring to the notice of the judge that you only have three peremptory challenges, whereas the defense has fifteen, and therefore request for six or more peremptory challenges.
In many instances, in such type of situation, the judge might grant a few additional challenges to the party that is outnumbered, in order to balance things out a little bit. However, it still depends on the discretion of the judge since he could refuse to grant additional peremptory challenges and there is nothing that the party can do about it.
Having maximum number of peremptory challenges is critical, as it provides the opportunity to remove jurors without giving any reasons. Sometimes it is difficult to find a valid reason to excuse jurors who could be biased to your case and removing such jurors is vital to your case. Therefore having additional peremptory challenges is always useful and advantageous.