CHARLESTON -- One subject that I haven't addressed to any significant degree in this column is the credibility of witnesses at trial and during depositions.
CHARLESTON -- There are many reasons for litigators to seek qualified trial consultants to assist them with case strategy and jury selection.
I'm often asked about potential legal reforms that could be made to improve the quality of jury panels. This, invariably, causes me to consider the type of jurors most of us would want on a panel if we were on trial. Yes, I think first from a defensive perspective as I believe most people would if they consider this issue in detail.
CHARLESTON -- Preparing witnesses for depositions and trials is a common tool utilized during litigation. The goal of these efforts is to help the witness tell their story in a straightforward, understandable fashion. It is NOT a method to change any facts or elements of the witness' testimony.
In past columns I have stated that the most difficult -- and least effective -- use of jury research is trying to determine potential monetary damages.
CHARLESTON -- The best jury research replicates the actual trial situation as closely as possible. Unfortunately, conducting surveys, focus groups and mock trials in the actual trial venue often has significant downside.
CHARLESTON -- In previous columns I have described factors that influence jurors. These factors have included group dynamics whereby people influence each other and individual lifestyle and values that affect juror opinions.
CHARLESTON -- The primary task for jury consultants analyzing the jury deliberation process is to move from a psychological to a sociological focus. This is accomplished in several ways.
One of the issues that I confront on a regular basis is accusations that our jury research is biased. That is, either plaintiff counsel or defense counsel claims that our research has a particular agenda. They sometimes claim our agenda reflects our client's position in a particular case. My response ... huh?
CHARLESTON -- When professionally conducted, jury research can reveal attitudinal and lifestyle questions that may be utilized during the voir dire process.
Beneficial voir dire questions originate from well-thought through research efforts. They are typically attitudinal, lifestyle questions and are not demographic based.
The jury selection process can be one of the more frustrating and mystifying aspects of trial work. The challenge of selecting a fair and impartial jury panel can be a daunting task in, and of, itself.
Like many scientific research efforts, trial research is most effective when there is an opportunity to build on previous learnings and results.
Why are West Virginia and other venues considered "litigation hellholes" by many? Are the underlying reasons primarily a product of local juror attitudes and opinions or more closely tied to the workings of the local legal system?
CHARLESTON -- I have often written about the danger of using jury research as a means to assess financial risk for jury trials. I must continue to remind litigators and their clients that the best use of jury research is for testing themes and messages and refining case strategy.
Many of us are familiar with Leonard Nimoy's quote from the second Star Trek movie as he sacrifices his life to save others, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." A very noble sentiment, of course, and even "logical."
CHARLESTON -- In a previous column, I wrote that jurors utilize long-held opinions and attitudes when serving on a jury panel. But, what are some of the major influences and emotions that impact "juror think?"
Yes, you are a skilled litigator. Yes, you are an experienced communicator. Yes, you can gain the trust and confidence of jurors. However, you may still be at a severe disadvantage with a jury panel when presenting your case. Additionally, any disadvantage probably has nothing to do with any fault of yours.
Samples CHARLESTON -- There are many reasons that litigators turn to jury consultants to assist them in preparing for trial. Similarly, there are several issues that jury consultants often face with clients that require thoughtful communications in order to explain the limits of trial research.
In my last column, I discussed the impact of West Virginia's legal environment on our state's business climate.