What is voir dire?

Voir dire is jury selection. A panel of potential jurors comes into court after receiving a summons from the County in which they reside. Then, they are asked questions by the judge and the attorneys for both sides to determine if they can be fair and impartial (i.e. neutral) in the case to be decided.

Sometimes judges are too restrictive in allowing the lawyers to question the potential jurors. The California legislature recognized this and passed a new law in response.

Effective January 1, 2018, the California Code of Civil Procedure section 223, subdivision (b) was amended to read as follows:

“(1) Upon completion of the trial judge’s initial examination, counsel for each party shall have the right to examine, by oral and direct questioning, any of the prospective jurors. The scope of the examination conducted by counsel shall be within reasonable limits prescribed by the trial judge in the judge’s sound discretion subject to the provisions of this chapter. During any examination conducted by counsel for the parties, the trial judge shall permit liberal and probing examination calculated to discover bias or prejudice with regard to the circumstances of the particular case or the parties before the court. The fact that a topic has been included in the trial judge’s examination shall not preclude appropriate followup questioning in the same area by counsel. The trial judge should permit counsel to conduct voir dire examination without requiring prior submission of the questions unless a particular counsel engages in improper questioning.

(2) The trial judge shall not impose specific unreasonable or arbitrary time limits or establish an inflexible time limit policy for voir dire. As voir dire proceeds, the trial judge shall permit supplemental time for questioning based on individual responses or conduct of jurors that may evince attitudes inconsistent with suitability to serve as a fair and impartial juror in the particular case.

(3) For purposes of this section, an ‘improper question’ is any question that, as its dominant purpose, attempts to precondition the prospective jurors to a particular result or indoctrinate the jury.”

(Code Civ. Proc., § 223, subd. (b) [bold added].)

Accordingly, your attorney should consider moving in limine to let the judge know the new law.