Peremptories And Prejudice: The Striking Role Of Employment Status In Jury Selection

February 15, 2019  |  The Insider: White Collar Defense and Securities Enforcement

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a trial lawyer in possession of limited information about prospective jurors, may exercise strikes based on a juror’s employment status. Criminal prosecutors may strike jurors who are unemployed, in the belief that such jurors may be less socially connected, less accustomed to following rules, less experienced in making serious decisions (such as voting for conviction), and thereby potentially biased against the government and in favor of the defendant. Criminal defense lawyers, meanwhile, may strike jurors who are employed, for the inverse reasons. And in civil cases, as one commentator wrote, “[j]ury consultants consistently report that,” among other things, “long-term, unemployed people . . . tend to favor the plaintiff’s position.” Employment status can be an entirely reasonable reason for a trial lawyer to strike a prospective juror. At the same time, however, employment status can at times be misused by trial lawyers as a pretext to strike a juror when the real reason is the juror’s membership in a so-called cognizable group, such as a racial minority. In order to distinguish between a permissible and impermissible strike, judges should engage in extraordinarily careful fact-finding and analysis, as the stakes for both the lawyers and the parties run high. [...]

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