Title

The acceptability and utility of voir dire questionnaires in Florida circuit civil court

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor's Name

Gary Moran

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Janat F. Parker

Third Advisor's Name

John F. Stack

Fourth Advisor's Name

Brian L. Cutler

Date of Defense

6-23-2000

Abstract

This study examined the acceptability and utility of the content of an extensive automobile tort voir dire questionnaire in Florida Circuit Civil Court. The ultimate purpose was to find questionnaire items from established measures that have demonstrated utility in uncovering biases that were at the same time not objectionable to the courts. The survey instrument included a venireperson questionnaire that used case-specific attitudinal and personality measures as well as typical information asked about personal history. The venireperson questionnaire incorporated measures that have proven reliable in other personal injury studies (Hans, & Lofquist, 1994). In order to examine judges' ratings, the questionnaire items were grouped into eight categories. Claims Consciousness scale measures general attitudes towards making claims based on one's legal rights. Belief in a Just World measures how sympathetic the juror would be to people who have suffered injuries. Political Efficacy is another general attitude scale that identifies attitudes towards the government. Litigation Crisis scales elicits attitudes about civil litigation. Case Specific Beliefs about Automobile Accidents and Litigation were taken from questionnaires developed and used in auto torts and other personal injury cases. Juror's personal history was divided into Demographics and Trial Relevant Attitudes. Ninety-seven circuit civil judges critiqued the questionnaire for acceptability, relevance to the type of case presented, and usefulness to attorneys for determining peremptories.

The majority of judges' responses confirmed that the central dimension in judicial thinking is juror qualification rather than juror partiality. Only three of the eight voir dire categories were considered relevant by more than 50 percent of the judges: Trial Relevant Experiences, Juror Demographics, and Tort Reform. Additionally, several acceptable items from generally disapproved categories were identified among the responses. These were general and case specific attitudinal items that are related to tort reform. We discuss the utility of voir dire items for discerning juror partiality.

Identifier

FI14051834

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