American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review, Volume 51, Issue 1 (2015)


Copyright American Judges Association. Used by permission.


Friday mornings in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas are unofficially designated as civil-jury days. The vast majority of jury panels leaving the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice and heading over to City Hall on Friday mornings are listed for civil cases—anything from motor-vehicle accidents and contract disputes to complex medical-malpractice and products-liability cases. These panelists—not always bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, though more often than not awake and attentive—are Philadelphians of all stripes. They come from all corners of the city and are, for the most part, pleasant folks. My job as judge’s tipstaff1 is to work with these jurors by assisting the court and the litigants selecting juries and managing the courtroom. In my time at City Hall, I have empanelled nearly 100 civil juries and as a result can occasionally predict which side will strike which juror in which order. This rarely happens, but after a few automobileaccident cases, you get a feel for the types of experience or beliefs that might bias a juror to a particular set of facts. As prospective jurors answer the court’s questions, one may reasonably characterize their answers as proxies for bias, and they include such things as familiarity with claims investigation, prior lawsuits, personal feelings regarding money-damage awards, and the like. Using a juror’s stated experiences or beliefs as a proxy for bias are permissible bases for excusing that juror from serving on the jury by exercising a peremptory challenge.