St. Mary's Law Journal


Citizens serving on a civil jury are entrusted with making factual decisions about disputes that impact legal rights and remedies of litigants and set standards for the behavior of the public. Unfortunately, civil jury trials take place less frequently in twenty-first century Texas than in prior eras. Part of the justice system’s rejuvenation should involve a re-evaluation and improvement of the current process for selecting civil juries. Currently, the primary flaw in Texas jury selection procedures is the one-size-fits-all approach. Because some cases need twelve impartial jurors who are lay persons, and others require twelve people who are knowledgeable of the subject matter, the cookie-cutter approach to jury selection does not best serve the court or parties. Ideally, a tiered approach would outlaw peremptory challenges in some cases, grant flexibility to judges regarding use of peremptory challenges in other cases, and provide judges with discretion to use special juries in particular circumstances. Tier l would cover the less complicated small damages cases and would not allow jury shuffle or peremptory challenges—only challenges for cause. In Level II, the default level, random selection would still be important but not absolute. Jury shuffle would not be allowed, and while peremptory challenges would also not be allowed, either party could file a motion for peremptory challenges and attempt to convince the judge that peremptory challenges are appropriate. Level III selection would be completely tailored to the needs of the case. Trial judges could allow jury shuffle, would have broad discretion to allow peremptory challenges, and could permit a struck jury procedure. Trial judges would also have the discretion to seat an expert jury for a particular case. A variety of values shape current Texas civil jury selection procedures. The improved design is intended to stitch those values with case-specific patterns in the three-tiered framework. Carefully tailoring Texas jury selection procedures to individual cases will produce fairer, more efficient civil jury trials.


St. Mary's University School of Law