Verdict - Spring 2018 - 40

> PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE POINTERS

Voir Dire
R
BY W. MATTHEW WILSON

ecently, Verdict editorial board member Matthew Wilson sat down with his
former colleague Allison Barnes Salter, who was elected to the Cobb County

State Court bench in 2016. Judge Salter discussed some tips for voir dire and
a few mistakes you might avoid when picking your next jury.

An interview with
Cobb County State
Court Judge Allison
Barnes Salter

Q: What is the general process for jury selec-

process: introducing themselves and their cli-

attorneys the right to question jurors about

tion in Cobb County State Court? Anything

ents in a positive light, ferreting out the feelings

a variety of topics - any interest in the case,

special that you do in your courtroom?

and potential biases of individual jurors, and

relationship or acquaintance with the parties

A: Procedures vary courtroom to court-

orienting them to the case. At the same time,

or attorneys, bias, and any religious, social,

room. I would always suggest talking to the

attorneys need to be mindful of jurors' time.

or fraternal connections of the juror - just

judge (at a pre-trial hearing) or the judge's

Achieving success in all of these areas is a

to name a few. See O.C.G.A. § 15-12-133.

staff attorney about the judge's preferences

tall order and truly takes skill and practice.

Questions asked by attorneys must be jus-

during jury selection. I usually prefer to handle

However, attorneys likely still spend the vast

tifiable in terms of the topics in this statute.

general and individual questions at the same

majority of their time on a case thinking and

Q: What questions are NOT in bounds?

time unless I have a larger number of jurors in

prepping about the substantive trial rather

A: The answer to this question goes along

which case it is easier to do them separately.

than jury selection. Taking that extra time to

the lines of "I know it when I see it" which I

I have found that in almost every case - big

strategize and plan for jury selection pays huge

realize is not great guidance to a practitioner.

or small - it is important to give some sort of

dividends during jury selection by fostering

I would say for sure any topic excluded by

preliminary charge to the prospective jurors -

a good atmosphere for the trial that follows.

motions in limine are obviously out of bounds.

even before the actual jury panel is selected.

Q: From your perspective, what are the chal-

Additionally, any question which even inti-

Jurors are naturally curious and sometimes

lenges of jury selection in Cobb County, one

mates about the possibility of insurance pay-

inclined to research issues, locations, or par-

of the state's more conservative counties?

ing for any potential judgment is equally out

ties at breaks. Given the wealth of knowledge

A: I do not think the challenges are any

now at a juror's fingertips I find it helpful to

different than they are anywhere else.

Q: How far can a plaintiff's lawyer go to reha-

lay out at the outset - before any questioning

Wherever an attorney finds himself in court,

bilitate jurors during voir dire?

begins - why they must refrain from indepen-

the goal is the same - eliminate the jurors

A: A trial judge's main duty during the

dent research. I will then give more detailed

who you feel will not fairly and impartially

course of a trial is to ensure a fair and impar-

instructions to the jury actually chosen to hear

consider your theory of the case. For the

tial proceeding. Decisions during jury selec-

a case regarding their duties and obligations

plaintiff, if choices of venue are open - this

tion on the issue of cause are often the most

during the trial.

may be a factor for where to file the suit

significant made during a trial. Most impor-

Q: You were a practicing trial lawyer before

- or managing client expectations of any

tantly, if a juror expresses an inability to be fair

being elected to the bench in 2016. What, if

potential outcome. I think most trial lawyers

to one side, the court cannot rely on a simple

anything, have you learned about jury selec-

would agree that the jury-strike process is

talismanic rehabilitation question alone to

tion as a judge that you didn't realize as a

less about creating an ideal jury than it is

rehabilitate a juror. The best practice - in

trial lawyer?

about avoiding jurors you think could never

addition to any rehabilitation question asked

A: I don't know of anything I have nec-

be receptive to your client or your case. So

by the court - is to permit further voir dire

essarily learned during the past year, but I

lawyers are just seeking the "least bad" jury

by the parties on the issue of the confessed

will note that jury selection is probably the

panel for your case.

bias. A court's ultimate decision should be to

most important but least prepared part of

Q: What questions are "in bounds" during

ensure the fairness of a trial but at a minimum

most trials. Jury selection is very signifi-

voir dire in your courtroom?

must permit a full opportunity for the parties

cant and sets the tone in a case. Attorneys

A: Generally, I take a very hands off

want to accomplish several goals during this

approach to voir dire. The statute gives

40

Georgia Trial Lawyers Association

of bounds.

to examine the juror.
Continued on page 46



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Verdict - Spring 2018

President’s Message
How I Obtained Justice: Sudden Emergency Doctrine
Thank You to Outgoing Verdict Chairman, Madeleine Simmons
Look Before You Leap: Conducting Jury Focus Groups Before Trial
Voir Dire In Low Speed, Soft Tissue Injury Cases
Defeating Reptile Theory Motions in Limine
Leading the Jury Down the Right Path: Framing Your Case During Voir Dire
Hernandez v. State: Empowering Jurors to Seek the Truth
Exploding Takata Airbags From Cover-Up To Accountability
Using Simple Technology to Pick a Better Jury
Case Updates: Who Really Loses When Medical Funding Becomes an Issue at Trial?
Professional Practice Pointers: Voir Dire, An interview with Cobb County State Court Judge Allison Barnes Salter
Dig In To Do Good: Making the World a Better Place
Welcome New GTLA Members!
Champion Members
Meet The Experts
Index to Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Intro
Verdict - Spring 2018 - bellyband1
Verdict - Spring 2018 - bellyband2
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover1
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover2
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 3
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 4
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 5
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 6
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 7
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 8
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 9
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 10
Verdict - Spring 2018 - President’s Message
Verdict - Spring 2018 - How I Obtained Justice: Sudden Emergency Doctrine
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 13
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 14
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Thank You to Outgoing Verdict Chairman, Madeleine Simmons
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Look Before You Leap: Conducting Jury Focus Groups Before Trial
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 17
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 18
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 19
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 20
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Voir Dire In Low Speed, Soft Tissue Injury Cases
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 22
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 23
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 24
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 25
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Defeating Reptile Theory Motions in Limine
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 27
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 28
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Leading the Jury Down the Right Path: Framing Your Case During Voir Dire
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 30
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Hernandez v. State: Empowering Jurors to Seek the Truth
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 32
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 33
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Exploding Takata Airbags From Cover-Up To Accountability
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 35
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 36
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Using Simple Technology to Pick a Better Jury
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Case Updates: Who Really Loses When Medical Funding Becomes an Issue at Trial?
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 39
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Professional Practice Pointers: Voir Dire, An interview with Cobb County State Court Judge Allison Barnes Salter
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Dig In To Do Good: Making the World a Better Place
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 42
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Champion Members
Verdict - Spring 2018 - 44
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Meet The Experts
Verdict - Spring 2018 - Index to Advertisers/Advertiser.com
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover3
Verdict - Spring 2018 - cover4
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