Summary Jury Trials can provide litigants in certain cases their virtual “day in court,” to gain real juror feedback, and to resolve the case through an informed mediation process.
What is the Summary Jury Trial Process?
Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 154.026 outlines that “a summary jury trial is a forum for early case evaluation and development of realistic settlement negotiations.” At the summary jury trial, each party presents their positions before a panel of 6 jurors, unless the parties agree otherwise panel. After the presentations, the jury panel may issue an advisory opinion regarding the liability and/or damages of the parties. The opinion is non-binding on the parties and would allow them to participate in a later mediation.
Can a Summary Jury Trial Be Handled Virtually?
Yes. SLG participated in the first ever virtual summary jury trial. The proceeding lasted 6 hours. The 15-minute voir dire was streamed live over YouTube and resulted in two sets of six-member jury panels. After the jury was seated, the parties presented their case in what can be referred to as an advanced closing argument that included the direct and cross examination of witnesses, presentation of documentary evidence and deposition cuts of key witnesses.
Pros for Summary Jury Trial
- Actual juror feedback on case merits
- Try out trial themes
- Less costly than mock trial process
- Platform allows for business clients to watch anonymously
- Relieve courts of overwhelmed trial dockets
Cons for Summary Jury Trial
- Not the same as face to face proceedings
- There could be technical glitches
- Not right for every case
- Possible lack of representation in venire
- Possibility to “show your cards”
What happened after each attorney presents their side?
After the presentations, the two jury panels deliberated separately in two breakout rooms. The parties were able to provide key exhibits to share with the panels. During deliberations, the jury foreperson for each group submitted questions to the presiding judge and parties to be answered. After deliberations, the two juries provided their non-binding advisory opinions.
Is the Voir Dire the Same as Face to Face Jury Selection?
Absolutely not. Is watching a football game at home the same as watching it live? No, but we still watch the game. Effective trial attorneys should still be able to connect to prospective jurors through a virtual platform. Frankly, virtual voir dire is more challenging because it demands that counsel be more engaging to create a conversation with the jurors that results in learning as much as possible.