CPLR 4104, et seq. [“Civil Practice Law and Rules”] controls how jury selection is done in New York State Supreme Court.
Absent special circumstances, six (6) jurors and two (2) alternates ultimately are selected. At times, if the trial appears it may be a lengthy one, additional alternates are selected. Though the alternates typically are designated by number, sometimes the presiding justice will refrain from providing the alternates a number, so all need pay attention, lest they be selected if an original is unable to serve at some point during trial.
is unique in that voir dire (the questioning of potential jurors) usually is conducted in a jury empaneling room without the trial justice present. Prior to a panel being designated (typically 25-50 potential jurors), they are given questionnaires to complete which contain certain demographic information, such as name, address, occupation, family information and whether one has ever before served as a juror. Therefore, the attorneys
have at least some preliminary information they need not inquire about during jury selection.
The potential jurors, once empaneled, are sent to the jury selection room and their names are picked at random to begin the selection process. Counsel will introduce themselves, the parties and their witnesses. They also may, generally, advise what the case is about but are not allowed to discuss the case in detail nor “try” there case during voir dire. Once the first six (6) potential jurors are questioned by counsel, the attorneys gather outside the room to discuss the first six jurors. This process continues until all six (6) jurors and two (2) alternates are selected.
Assuming a civil action with only one plaintiff’s attorney and one defense attorney, each will be given three (3) preemptory challenges. That means that attorney has three (3) chances to remove a potential juror without any explanation at all. Nevertheless, both counsel have unlimited challenges “for cause.” Though such challenges may be disputed and counsel may need a ruling from the presiding justice to remove that juror “for cause.” An example of a “for cause” challenge might be where the potential juror has the very same or similar injury to that suffered by the plaintiff.
At times, both counsel may agree to let a potential go given various circumstances, such as hardships involving medical conditions, children and/or work.
Once the challenges are expended (oftentimes the attorneys do not exercise all of their challenges), the jury is empaneled and the alternates then selected. At this time, the attorneys are provided only one preemptory challenge each.
After the six (6) jurors and two (2) alternates are selected, the trial justice is notified and the jury is sworn. The jury then receives preliminary instructions from the trial justice and the trial begins.