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Juan Salazar v. Continental Construction of Montana

July 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Carolyn S. Ostby United States Magistrate Judge


Plaintiff Juan Salazar ("Salazar") moves under Local Rule 47 for leave to submit questionnaires to all prospective jurors for this case. Mtn. for Submission of Jury Questionnaires (DKT 107). Defendant A&J Construction of Montana, Inc. ("A&J") opposes the motion. A&J's Resp. Br. (DKT 117).

Although other motions are pending, the Court here addresses only Salazar's Motion for Submission of Jury Questionnaires (DKT 107). Having considered the parties' briefs and submissions, the Court will deny Salazar's motion as discussed below.


Salazar moves the Court to approve a questionnaire for prospective jurors "to allow all parties to better understand the opinions and beliefs of prospective jurors." Salazar's Br. (DKT 108) at 2. He states that he "is asking that prospective jurors be asked questions about their feelings toward illegal immigration, damages, and the civil justice system in general[ ]" and argues that "[t]hese questionnaires provide important insight into prospective jurors and will, importantly, significantly decrease the amount of time necessary for voir dire in court." Id. at 3.

A&J objects arguing that Salazar's proposed questionnaire is: (1) too lengthy and thus burdensome for potential jurors, DKT 117 at 2; (2) prejudicial to A&J because jurors may resent having to complete a time-consuming form before serving as jurors, id.; (3) intimidating to potential jurors because most are lay people unfamiliar with court proceedings, id. at 2-3; (4) improper to the extent there are questions about insurance and insurance companies, id. at 3; (5) biased in Salazar's favor, id.; (6) redundant to questions that can be asked during voir dire, id. at 3-4; and (7) ineffective in allowing counsel to observe potential jurors' reactions, both verbal and nonverbal, while answering questions, id. at 4.

In reply, Salazar notes that he agrees to delete 18 questions previously proposed "[i]n an effort to reach a mutually acceptable questionnaire[.]" Salazar's Reply Br. (DKT 141) at 1. In doing so, he has reduced the questionnaire from 16 to 12 pages, and reduced the number of questions to 68. Id. at 2. Salazar argues that, in dividing the remaining questions into three groups, he responds to A&J's objections as follows: (1) respecting questions 15-28, A&J's argument that questions are biased is unfounded because the questions "are completely innocuous ... [and] will tell a lot about perspective (sic) jurors and any bias they may have[,]" id. at 3; (2) respecting questions 63-68, Salazar's status as an immigrant makes it necessary for these questions to be explored, id. at 3-4; and (3) questions 71-85 are drafted to be fair, and some questions about juror vision and hearing will help them avoid the embarrassment of having to reveal such information in open court, id. at 4-5.


Local Rule 47.1(b) provides:

Juror Questionnaires. Case specific juror questionnaires may be allowed at the discretion of the presiding judge and under such terms and conditions as ordered by the presiding judge.

L.R. 47.1(b) (emphasis in original). With his reply brief, Salazar presented his revised Jury Questionnaire, consisting of 12 pages and 68 questions. See DKT 141-1 at 2-13. Having carefully reviewed the questionnaire, together with the parties' arguments, the Court will exercise its discretion in denying Salazar's motion for the reasons that follow.

First, many questions duplicate the Jury Information Form contained in the Summons for Jury Service that prospective jurors receive, complete, and return to the Clerk of Court when they have been summoned for jury duty. See Form AO 2208 (rev. 9/01) ("AO 2208"). For example, AO 2208 already contains some form of questions 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 30, 31, 32, and 66 from Salazar's proposed questionnaire. Also, AO 2208 contains other questions, such as "Spouse's Occupation" (AO 2208 question number 15) that could help at least partially answer Salazar's proposed question numbers 9 and 10. It would be unreasonable to place upon prospective jurors the burden of answering questions they have already answered in responding to their summonses.

Second, some of Salazar's proposed questions have seemingly no or very little relevance to how a prospective juror may view issues in this case. For example, questions 9 and 10 seek information about military service and contract work with the military by the prospective juror and his or her spouse. Questions 11 through 19, although perhaps intended to seek insight into each potential juror's general views, again bear little connection to likely trial issues, and thus do not justify the additional burden, and perhaps confusion, the additional written questionnaire would cause for many jurors.

Third, the Court agrees that the opportunity for the Court and counsel to observe prospective jurors' demeanor and reactions is critical. In denying a requested jury questionnaire in a ...

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