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Bench and Jury Trials

A. Final Pretrial Order for Consent Cases

A proposed final pretrial order must be prepared and filed jointly (a courtesy copy to chambers and an electronic copy to and must cover the following:
1.  Statement of jurisdiction and whether the trial is by bench or by jury.

2.  Expected length of trial.

3.  Concise statement of the claim(s) of plaintiff(s), defense(s) of defendant(s), and all counterclaims and cross claims.  In a jury case, this statement will be read to the jury during voir dire.

4.  A list of all witnesses, including expert witnesses, who may or may not be called at trial in the order of their anticipated testimony.  In a jury case, this list will be read to the jury during voir dire.

5.  A schedule of all exhibits a party plans to offer at trial, identified by trial exhibit number.  The opposing party must identify those exhibits to which there are objections and the bases for the objections.

6.  Itemization of damages and other relief sought.

7.  In a bench trial, parties must include a trial briefing explaining what each side's evidence will show and how that evidence supports each side's claim or defense under the prevailing law. The court will direct the parties to file their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law after the bench trial.

8.  In a jury trial, the parties are to meet and agree on jury instructions and to file proposed instructions with the final pretrial order.  Parties should consult the Pattern Civil Jury Instructions for the Seventh Circuit for the most up to date pattern jury instructions.

9.  The court has its own set of general voir dire questions.  Any proposed questions unique to the case should be included in the final pretrial order.

After the filing of the joint proposed final pretrial order, the parties must meet and confer about motions in limine.  The court will schedule a deadline by when the motions must be filed.  The court will also schedule and hold a final pretrial conference to rule on the motions in limine and to prepare for trial.

B. Jury Selection Procedures

The following procedure provides the parties with an opportunity to see the entire jury venire before exercising their peremptory challenges and permits counsel to ask follow up questions.

A venire of approximately 20 prospective jurors is summoned from the juror waiting room. Following brief introductory remarks by the court, the Courtroom Deputy randomly shuffles the juror cards on which the names are written. Jurors are then called one by one and seated in the jury box and spectator bench in numerical order from 1 through 20. The court then asks general questions of the entire venire regarding their availability to serve for the duration of the trial. Counsel introduces all parties seated at the counsel table, delivers a brief non-argumentative description of the case and identifies all witnesses they intend to call.

The court then questions the jurors in numerical order. Each juror rises in turn and answers the general background questions contained on the jury voir dire which is given to each juror upon entering the courtroom. The court asks each juror case-specific questions and counsel may ask clarifying follow-up questions. Any question which a juror prefers to answer in private is reserved and asked in chambers.

After all jurors have answered all questions, the parties meet with the court in chambers. The court first asks parties to make any challenges for cause and to state the basis for the challenge. The court rules on all challenges for cause before peremptory challenges are made. The parties then simultaneously present a piece of paper to the court on which they have written the name and juror number of each of the jurors for whom they wish to exercise their peremptory challenges.

In civil cases, each party is allowed 3 peremptory challenges. In most civil cases, the court impanels 8 jurors with a minimum of 6 necessary for deliberations. All jurors who are still seated at the conclusion of the trial will deliberate. Jurors will be seated in numerical order based on the order in which they were originally seated. The first 8 jurors who have not been excused will constitute the jury. Therefore, if a party is uncertain whether to use a peremptory challenge as between juror number 1 or number 20, for instance, the party is encouraged to use it on the lower number juror because, of those two jurors, that juror will be seated first. Any questions regarding these procedures can be raised at the final pretrial conference.

C. Standard Voir Dire Questions

The court will ask the following questions of each juror:

1. Juror’s Name.

2. The community or neighborhood (not the street address) and any other places

where juror has lived in the past 10 years. Does the juror rent or own?

3. Extent of the juror’s formal education.

4. Juror’s employment or self-employment information for the past 10 years, with such details as:

    (a) name and place of employment or self-employment;

    (b) title of the juror’s position or a general description of the juror’s work activities and responsibilities; and

    (c) length of time of the juror’s employment, self-employment or unemployment.

5. Other family and employment information:

    (a) if married, juror’s spouse’s name and the same employment (or selfemployment) information as listed above for the past 10 years;

    (b) if juror has children, their names and ages and the same employment (or self-employment) information during the past 10 years for each of them, and if any of them is married, the same employment (or selfemployment) information about each daughter-in-law or son-in-law; and

    (c) if any other adult lives in the juror’s household (any parent, brother, sister, fiance, boyfriend or girlfriend or anyone else), the same employment (or self-employment) information about each such person during the past 10 years.

6. Juror’s major outside interests or hobbies – things that the juror spend a great deal of time on outside of work.

7. Juror’s military status. If the juror served in any branch of the United States Armed Services, the branch of service, highest rank and type of discharge.

8. Prior jury experience in federal court, state court or on the grand jury, and if the juror has previously served, the type of case and the location of such service.

9. Prior experience as a witness in court, hearing or deposition.

10. Legal training and experience.

11. Experience as a party to civil lawsuit other than divorce. Whether the juror, a relative or close friend have ever sued someone or been sued or been involved in any lawsuit related to the juror’s employment or occupation.

12. Any reason why the juror cannot be a fair and impartial juror.

13. Juror’s ability to follow the court’s instructions on the law and suspend judgment until the juror has heard all of the evidence in this case.

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