Legal English: "Voir Dire"

Voir dire” (Pronunciation: vwar DEER; Origin: Latin) is a pre-trial process by which jurors are examined for their ability to render a fair verdict in a particular case pending before the court. Voir dire examinations are conducted in open court by a judge with the participation of attorneys for both parties.

Here are some example sentences that use the phrase:

  • “Let’s bring in the jury pool. If we can wrap up voir dire and have a jury empaneled before lunch, that would be best for my calendar.”
  • “During voir dire, they got rid of any jurors they thought would have a pro-business attitude. Apparently, they’re resting their case on a basic dislike of big corporations, rather than the relevant facts.”
  • “If voir dire goes well, and we wind up with the jury we want, this case will be a lot easier on us.”

Voir dire can be a limited, focused procedure, or it can be an open-ended two-way conversation in which the parties delve into the mind of each juror. To that end, most of the questions during voir dire are designed to reveal whether any juror would have difficulty considering the case impartially. For example, a juror that thinks that large corporations are “greedy” might be more inclined to find that punitive damages are appropriate. And for that reason, a big business defendant would want to have that juror removed from the jury pool.

Removals are accomplished by “challenges.” Parties are given a limited number of “peremptory” challenges, which allow them to request the dismissal of jurors without stating the reason why. Jurors may also be stricken “for cause” when it is clear that they cannot render a fair verdict in a case, or have stated that they are unwilling to apply the law properly.

Once the parties have no further challenges to members of the jury, voir dire can be concluded and the next phase of trial can commence.