The short answer is maybe.
The longer answer is maybe not.
Let me tell you why.
During jury selection, my goal is to learn about a juror's background.
I want to know who they are.
What's their educational background?
What do they do in their free time?
What do they believe in?
What biases or prejudices do they have?
You should know that when I walk into a room of 30 strangers who have been summoned to appear for jury selection, if I were to ask "Is anyone here prejudiced?" nobody will raise their hand.
Same thing if I ask "Is anybody here biased?"
Nobody will willingly admit, amongst all these strangers, that they have a bias.
The same thing is true if I walk into the jury room and ask "Who here voted for Donald Trump?"
Some will eagerly admit they voted for him.
Some will never admit they voted for him.
Others will raise their hand once they see other jurors have the courage to admit they voted for him.
If I were to ask "Who here voted for Hilary?"
I will likely get a similar reaction.
Let's say this is a medical malpractice lawsuit.
I represent a woman who claims that her doctor was careless and his carelessness caused her permanent harm.
She's sued her doctor.
We have a medical expert who confirms her doctor was careless.
Our expert confirms that her doctor's wrongdoing caused her harm.
The doctor and his attorney say our claim is nonsense.
Her doctor says he did nothing wrong.
He says if he did something wrong, so did my client.
"She didn't listen to me when I told her to take this medication! If she had done that, she'd be fine," he argues.
He then says that if he did something wrong, it didn't cause or contribute to her injury.
Then, he argues that my client's injuries are not that bad.
Needless to say, the defense refuses to negotiate.
This case will NOT be settled.
We need a jury to resolve this dispute.
We need a jury to determine if we are more likely right than wrong that what we are claiming is true.
If so, then the jury will determine how much money my client is to recieve as a form of compensation for her injuries.
After two long years of litigation, her case finally comes up for trial.
This is a jury trial.
In New York we must select six members of the community to sit in judgment and decide our case.
Six people who have told us they can be fair and impartial.
Well, how do I know if they're fair and impartial?
Can I hook these potential jurors up to lie detectors in the court house?
No, I can't.
That would be bizarre and probably unconstitutional as well.
Ok, so how do I really know if a juror is fair and impartial.
I have to ask them questions.
Questions about their past.
About their life experience.
Questions about how they feel toward doctors and hospitals.
Questions about their beliefs.
"Mrs. Jones, are you a little closer to the people who feel that doctors can do no wrong?"
"Are you a little closer to the people who believe that doctors should be accountable for their actions?"
"Or are you a little closer to the people who feel that since doctors are human, if there's a mistake, it can be excused without any repurcussions?"
My goal is to find out where on a spectrum a juror might be on an issue.
I will never get a potential juror to come right out and say "Yes, Mr. Oginski, I'm prejudiced. I'm biased in favor of doctors. I think it's outrageous that injured people bring lawsuits against doctors. You and your client should be ashamed of yourself!"
No juror wants to publicly take such a stand in front of a room full of strangers.
That brings me to the title of this article.
Would I ever question potential jurors about the President of the United States?
Would I ever question who they voted for?
Would I ever question them about today's headlines and how they feel about the daily controversies surrounding President Trump and his constant woes involving Russia and his National Security Advisor?
The answers are yes, no and yes.
Yes, I might ask questions about the President.
Yes, I might ask questions about the days' headlines and the controversies surrounding our President.
Why would I do that if it has nothing to do with the claims my client is making in this malpractice case?
It may have a connection.
For example, if our case has an issue of a doctor refusing to do a surgical procedure because his insurance company refused to pay for it, I may need to ask about Obamacare and whether that has ever affected these jurors.
I may need to ask if anyone will be affected if President Trump passes his version of healthcare and how they feel about it.
That may provide me an insight into their thinking on an issue I know will arise in our case.
If the issues in our case have nothing to do with Trump's policies or controversies, it's unlikely my bringing up those topics will help me learn who these jurors are.
Want to know why?
It's because everyone has an opinion about the President.
Good, bad or ugly.
Everyone's got an opinion.
Everyone's got an opinion about politics.
Just ask someone how they feel about some controversy today.
Everyone has an opinion.
It doesn't matter really what that opinion is if it has no effect on the issues in our case.
If the only real issue in our case is whether your doctor violated the basic standards of medical care and this issue rests only on which medical expert the jury believes, then talking about Trump and politics will likely not yield helpful information to allow me to decide which juror is right for this case.
You also need to know that in NY, jury selection does not involve me walking into a room, talking to jurors for a few minutes and then picking those jurors whom I like.
It doesn't work that way.
To learn the behind-the-scenes details of how jury selection REALLY works, I invite you to read this great article.
To learn more about what happens in jury selection, I invite you to watch the quick video below...