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GOING TO TRIAL IN A NEW YORK LOCAL CRIMINAL COURT – HOW IS THE JURY POOL SELECTED?

How jury pools are chosen in a New York misdemeanor cases depends on what type of court your case is in. Section 2012 of New York’s Uniform District Court Act, New York’s Uniform City Court Act or of New York’s Uniform Justice Court Act, prescribes how jury panels are chosen in each of the aforementioned courts. In the New York City Criminal Court, the jury pool or panel is chosen in the same manner as in the Supreme Court in counties within cities having populations of one million or more.
When one reviews Section 2012 of the aforementioned acts, one realizes the section is not very enlightening. Both the New York State District Court Act and the New York State City Court Act merely tell us that jurors may be summoned as prescribed by the rules of the appellate department in which the particular court sits. So in reality, to determine how a jury pool is selected in a District or City Court we first turn to the CPL 360.10(2) which directs us to Section 2012 of the District or City Court acts as the case may be. After we look up Section 2012 in either act, it directs us to the appellate division rules for the department in which the particular city or district court sits. Now you know why lawyers like to get paid by the hour. It’s as if these statutes and rules were written by 3 different people who had no idea what the others were writing.
Section 2012 of the Uniform Justice Court Act is evening less enlightening bordering on comical. This section simply informs us that the jury panel in Justice Court trials is to be selected in accordance with the rules. What?! What Rules?! This is really comedic. Therefore, if you are going to trial in a local Justice of Village Court, the jury panel will be selected in accordance with the Rules – whatever they may be.
In reality, the New York State Judiciary Law is where we find the rules and procedures pertaining to the selection of the jury panel. Recall, it is the jury panel that your actual jury will be selected from. It is the policy of New York State that all litigants have a right to grand and trial juries (referred to as petit juries) randomly assembled from a fair cross-section of the community in the county or other local government subdivision where the court in which the trial is to take place is located. It is also the policy of this State that all eligible citizens have an opportunity to serve on grand and trial juries and in fact are obligated to when summoned unless otherwise excused. Jud. Law. § 500.
The jury panel is selected from a cross-section of eligible jurors drawn from the community where the crime was committed – not where the defendant lives. People v. Kellerman, 102 A.D.2d 629, 479 N.Y.S.2d 815 (3rd Dept. 1984). The panel of prospective jurors should reasonably represent a fair cross section of the community in which the trial is to take place. People v. Guzman, 89 A.D.2d 14, 454 N.Y.S.2d 852 (2nd Dept. 1982). However, there is not constitutional or statutory right requiring the trial (petit) jury be reasonably representative of the community in which the trial is to take place. Only the jury pool that the trial jury is chosen from need be reasonably representative of the community. People v. Moss, 80 Misc.2d 633, 366 N.Y.S.2d 522 (1975).
One way of knowing if the jury pool in a particular community is representative of the community in general is research the demographics of that community. In the pretrial conference, your attorney should inquire as to the make up of the jury panel. Your attorney should ask for a hearing on the manner of selection of the jury pool if an identifiable group is underrepresented. If your case is approaching jury selection and you have questions about the process, feel free to contact Tilem & Campbell for a free consultation.