Curriculum Guide · Courses
Jury Trials in America: Understanding and Practicing Before a Pure Form Democracy
Professor Gregory Mize
J.D. Seminar 394 | 2 credit hours
Whether the case is an accounting fraud prosecution in New York, a patent infringement action in Norfolk, or a mental retardation defense in a capital case, the American jury is repeatedly being called upon to render findings of fact in new and complex matters. While Supreme Court justices and bar association presidents extol the jury as the rock of our justice system, it is common for jurors to perform their weighty tasks without the learning tools that we take for granted in school. Moreover, despite the wellspring of pride in our democratic ideals after September 11, 2001, corrosive myths and misgivings about the jury trial still abound. In this regard one need only reflect upon notorious jury verdicts that occasionally crop up in the media. In addition, we now see a recurring diminishment of governmental funding for trial courts and widespread citizen reluctance to respond to summonses for jury duty. Judge Mize has presided over hundreds of jury trials in Washington, D.C., and is a nationally recognized leader in jury trial innovations. The seminar will immerse students in the world of jury trials, and will examine: the history of the Anglo-American jury and current perceptions of its role; jury selection processes from summoning through voir dire; factors affecting juror performance during the trial; jury management challenges such as increasing juror comprehension in complex litigation and juror privacy; and current policy debates concerning jury proceedings. Those aspiring to a career in litigation should find the seminar helpful in readying for future engagements with a jury. For all students, the seminar will provide deep insight into how this cornerstone of democracy currently works and the dynamic efforts occurring across the country to cause its renovation. Throughout the semester there will be several short research or writing assignments (2 or 3 pages) to prime the class discussions. In addition, during the semester students must attend a significant portion of a state or federal court jury trial. At the end of the semester students must submit their written jury observation report. The quality of the jury trial observation report will be the largest factor in determining each final grade.
Prerequisite: Civil Procedure (or Legal Process and Society) and Criminal Justice (or Democracy and Coercion) or Criminal Procedure.
Students may not receive credit for both this course and Trial by Jury seminar.