The Champion

April 2006 , Page 56 

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Who Said Voir Dire Wasn't Important?

By Dennis G. Terez

Judges need to let lawyers be advocates. But because of the way some district judges interpret Rule 24(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, they are not letting that happen. Let me illustrate the problem, and then propose several practical steps in the right direction.

One note before we begin our discussion. While the problem set forth here focuses on federal court where district judges routinely conduct voir dire alone, the problem is by no means limited to federal court. Moreover, the pitfalls and strategies to follow apply equally to federal and state court.

Rule 24(a) says that the “court may examine prospective jurors or may permit the attorneys for the parties to do so.” Seeming to acknowledge that they went down the wrong path with this wording, the rule’s drafters added that if the court examines the jurors, “it must permit the attorneys for the parties to: (A) ask further questions that the court considers proper; or (B) submit further questions that the court may a

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