Confidentiality: A Look at the Best Way to Screen Jurors for a Mock Trial

Screening jurors during recruiting phone calls is, and should be, a top priority for every focus group or mock trial project. When jurors are called to participate in jury research, they complete a rigorous screening process intended to disqualify anyone who has ties to, or special interest in, one of the parties, witnesses, companies, or anyone else involved in the case. If a juror has too much interest, it just heightens the chance that he or she may not be able to or willing to keep confidentiality, as much as they may intend to.

Stringent Protocols during Telephone Recruitment of Mock Jurors

Our participants are rigorously screened prior to attending the research project to: 1) preserve the project’s confidentiality; and 2) ensure a representative panel of jury eligibles. Our screening procedures anticipate case-specific issues, such as eliminating self-employed jurors for cases in which local counsel anticipates liberal hardship excuses. 

Protecting the Type of Project

Litigation Insights’ screening process may disqualify a juror via a series of questions, but distractor questions are also included during the screening so that the potential participant never knows the reason they were disqualified or the nature of the project (e.g., a mock trial or legal focus group). Therefore, he or she will not be left with a heightened interest in the project. For example, if a juror is disqualified, they will then be taken through a short series of questions completely unrelated to the case about, say, air travel or visiting a State park, and regardless of which airlines they claim to have flown recently or parks they have visited, they are told it disqualifies them from participation.

Second- and Third-Level Screening Onsite at the Mock Trial or Focus Group

confidentiality-mock-trial-lock

This extra step of onsite questionnaire screening is not an industry standard, but a step that, though it takes a bit more time, Litigation Insights considers critical to the integrity and quality of the research and confidentiality procedures we employ. We consider our juror recruitment to be of paramount importance, as the research is only as good as the representativeness of the jury pool. We spend a good deal of effort ensuring the mock jury pool is demographically yoked to the post-hardship jury pool seen in each venue’s court. But equally as important is ensuring the mock jurors do not pose an undue confidentiality risk.Litigation Insights takes additional steps on the day of the jury research that add extra layers of security to the recruit. When jurors arrive on site, they are re-screened on paper for the same names and companies for which they were screened on the phone during the recruit. The final layer of screening requires more time and labor, but is a critical step in identifying jurors’ experiences that may have skirted or ignored the initial screening questions, but nonetheless could pose a confidentiality risk. When jurors arrive for a mock trial or focus group, they complete a comprehensive background questionnaire that gathers information about their experiences, backgrounds and attitudes. Each questionnaire is examined personally and in detail by a Litigation Insights consultant onsite. This is also a good practice to identify the jurors who clearly would be excused for cause in trial and may influence the jury pool inordinately. Jurors who do not pass these last two exhaustive screenings are paid for their time and excused in the morning before hearing any sensitive information about the case.

This extra step of onsite questionnaire screening is not an industry standard, but a step that, though it takes a bit more time, Litigation Insights considers critical to the integrity and quality of the research and confidentiality procedures we employ.  We consider our juror recruitment to be of paramount importance, as the research is only as good as the representativeness of the jury pool.  We spend a good deal of effort ensuring the mock jury pool is demographically yoked to the post-hardship jury pool seen in each venue’s court.  But equally as important is ensuring the mock jurors do not pose an undue confidentiality risk.

 

Jill-Leibold

By:  Jill Leibold, Ph.D., Director – Jury Research