voir dire

Also found in: Dictionary, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to voir dire: challenge for cause

Voir Dire

[Old French, To speak the truth.] The preliminary examination of prospective jurors to determine their qualifications and suitability to serve on a jury, in order to ensure the selection of fair and impartial jury.

Voir dire consists of oral questions asked of prospective jurors by the judge, the parties, or the attorneys, or some combination thereof. This oral questioning, often supplemented by a prior written questionnaire, is used to determine whether a potential juror is biased, knows any of the parties, counsel, or witnesses, or should otherwise be excluded from jury duty. Voir dire is a tool used to achieve the constitutional right to an impartial jury, but it is not a constitutional right in itself.

Typically, a number of prospective jurors are called to the jury box, given an oath, and then questioned as a group by counsel or the court. Local federal rules generally provide for questioning by the judge. Individual or sequestered voir dire is used in rare cases where extensive publicity may potentially damage a defendant's case; some jurisdictions mandate it in death penalty cases. A prospective juror must answer questions fully and truthfully but cannot be faulted for failing to disclose information that was not sought.

The purpose of voir dire is not to educate jurors but to enable the parties to select an impartial panel. Therefore, voir dire questions should test the capacity and competency of the jurors without intentionally or unintentionally planting prejudicial matter in their minds. Trial judges have wide latitude in setting the parameters of questioning, including the abilities to determine the materiality and propriety of the questions and to set the time allowed for voir dire.

A party may move for dismissal for cause to remove any potential juror shown to be connected to or biased in the case. A court may sustain counsel's request to strike a juror for cause, in which case the juror steps aside and another is called. Or a judge may overrule a challenge for cause if a suitable reason has not been sufficiently established. Challenges for cause are not limited in number.

Each side also exercises peremptory challenges to further shape the composition of the jury. Peremptory challenges are used to dismiss a prospective juror without the need to provide a reason for dismissal. Statutes or court rules typically set the number of peremptory challenges afforded to a party.

Voir dire also describes a court's preliminary examination of a prospective witness whose competency or qualifications have been challenged.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

voir dire

(vwahr [with a near-silent "r"] deer) n. from French "to see to speak," the questioning of prospective jurors by a judge and attorneys in court. Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve (knowledge of the facts, acquaintanceship with parties, witnesses or attorneys, occupation which might lead to bias, prejudice against the death penalty, or previous experiences such as having been sued in a similar case). Actually one of the unspoken purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get a feel for the personalities and likely views of the people on the jury panel. In some courts the judge asks most of the questions, while in others the lawyers are given substantial latitude and time to ask questions. Some jurors may be dismissed for cause by the judge, and the attorneys may excuse others in "peremptory" challenges without stating any reason. 2) any hearing outside the presence of the jury held during trial. (See: jury, peremptory challenge)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

voir dire

‘to speak the truth’, a trial within a trial or initial inquisition to see if a confession is voluntary. In some US states it is used in the process of empanelling jurors.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
The third and fourth goals of voir dire, rapport and persuasion, are really byproducts of what you have accomplished in individual written examination and both individual and group oral examination.
Besides physically searching through thousands of court documents shelved in a clerk's office or waiting days for a response from an indexing bureau, disclosure during voir dire traditionally had been the only means by which a Missouri attorney could learn of a juror's prior litigation history.
(35) The Court noted that in similar circumstances where "reasonable prejudice to the defendant was likely to occur" the court should proactively approach steps to control such prejudice, including extensive voir dire, sequestering, and likely change of venue.
From the moment the potential jurors walk in the courtroom to begin voir dire, until the moment your office door closes behind you after the verdict--you are onstage.
(14) Principle 11 states that "[c]ourts should ensure that the process used to empanel jurors effectively serves the goal of assembling a fair and impartial jury." (15) In subsections 3 and 4 of Paragraph B under that principle, the ABA reaffirms the necessity of voir dire as an information-gathering proceeding:
One challenge of getting judges and lawyers onboard with voir dire in South Carolina is the time it can take, Joye said.
However, the voir dire ultimately was incomplete because the judge did not inquire further to determine whether, given the prospective juror's beliefs based on her life experiences, she nevertheless could fairly evaluate the evidence and follow the law.
An effective voir dire goes beyond demographic information to understand what pre-existing views, if any, potential jurors have on the issues, and whether they can neutrally evaluate the evidence to reach a just conclusion.
(7) In state voir dire proceedings, the process of questioning a group, or "pool," of potential jurors before jury selection, (8) metaphors seem to flourish whenever attorneys broach subjects like burdens of proof, witness credibility, or juror neutrality with a group of prospective jurors.
Where an appellant who challenged his civil commitment as a sexually violent predator argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his commitment trial, the appellant had a due process right to effective assistance, and his counsel exercised reasonable trial strategy, so there was no ineffective assistance claim, and the judgment is affirmed because the appellant also failed to show that the trial court erred in allowing testimony about a prior murder arrest or that he was subjected to manifest injustice when the court overruled his motion to disqualify a juror because the totality of the juror's voir dire examination showed that he could be reasonable and impartial.
Most medical staff bylaws and policies for peer review do not allow for voir dire in selecting the hearing panel.