Best Practices Recommendations for Civil Jury Trials

February 2009
By Judge Marilyn Litzenberger, Multnomah County Circuit Court.

In 2005, the ABA published Principles for Jurors and Jury Trials as part of its American Jury Project. Through the leadership of Judge Ellen Rosenblum, our court formed a committee of trial judges and trial lawyers to consider those principles and determine if trial practice procedures in Multnomah County might be improved to enhance juror satisfaction. The outcome of these discussions led to publication of a manual titled Best Practices Recommendations for Civil Jury Trials in July 2008. These recommendations address the efficiency of scheduling your trial on a date that allows for a pretrial conference to resolve motions in limine, objections to exhibits and deposition testimony, agreement on a neutral statement of the case to be read to jurors and preliminary discussions regarding jury instructions. A general theme of the best practices manual is to minimize juror inconvenience by resolving most, if not all, of the matters for the court before jury selection begins and the jury is empaneled. You can read the best practices recommendations on the MBA's Web site by clicking on Courts and the link under the heading 2008 Civil Jury Practices Report Available. The manual has been distributed to judges statewide and is used as a training tool for newly appointed and elected judges across the state. Don't be caught off guard by not having taken time to familiarize yourself with these recommendations before your next trial.