In every jury, one person must take the reigns and help ensure that a fair and expedient decision about a court case is rendered. That person is known as the jury foreman. Whether appointed or acting as a volunteer, a jury foreman has many important responsibilities. Meeting the jury foreman responsibilities requires organization, patience and, often, solid leadership abilities.
What Is a Jury Foreman?
A jury foreman is essentially the spokesperson for the jury in a particular criminal or civil case. The foreman is typically elected by other members of the jury to be their de facto lead, but may also be assigned by the judge (based on something like seat number) or may volunteer for the role. Selection of the jury foreman is typically done at the beginning of jury deliberations.
The jury foreman has many responsibilities both during and after jury deliberations. The main task is to make sure that all jurors are present and engaged in deliberations and that they understand all facets of the case at issue. The jury foreman needs to ensure a verdict is decided and present it to the court.
Read More: How to Get Excused From Jury Duty
Selecting a Jury Foreman
When selecting a man or woman to lead the jury deliberations, it’s ideal to choose one who exhibits the following traits:
- Good communication skills
- Professional experience
- Leadership abilities
It may be obvious who would make the best jury foreman, or it may take some time to choose. Generally, those selected as a jury foreman tend to be well-educated, assertive people who have been on juries before. It helps if the person selected has experiences that are relevant to the case at hand, such as having been a book publisher or having experience in a copyright case.
Duties of a Jury Foreman
Whoever gets elected as jury foreman has extra responsibilities on top of sitting on the jury. The duties of a jury foreman include:
- Ensuring all jurors are involved in the deliberations and have a chance to have their opinions heard
- Making sure the deliberations don’t stray away from the essential facts of the case and the relevant law
- Acting as a liaison to the court if there are any questions or concerns
- Having jury members vote and counting the votes to make sure they are all in
- Filling out and signing the jury verdict form
- Announcing the verdict on behalf of the jury
Ultimately, the jury foreman must ensure that all issues in the case are fully discussed in order to reach an appropriate verdict. The discussions should be open and free so that every juror can participate. If deliberations get out of hand or a juror is speaking out of turn, it is up to the jury foreman to get everything back on track and to keep the conversations civil.
Since every juror must vote on each charge in a case, the jury foreman must make sure that all votes are in and accounted for. Without the foreman, a final verdict cannot be decided.
It should be noted that, even though the foreman is the voice of the jury, she has no authority over fellow jury members. While she can guide them to the relevant facts and law, a foreman cannot persuade or instruct a jury member to vote a certain way. She must act as an impartial leader of the jurors so that a fair verdict is decided.
Meeting these responsibilities requires the jury foreman to engage others, listen, provide direction, get clarity when needed and take on a leadership role. While it is not a position everyone is comfortable doing, it is one that can be very rewarding for the right person.
- It may be useful to call for a "straw vote" early in the deliberations to get an idea of the extent to which jury members are in agreement.
- Although the foreman is the voice of the jury, he has no authority over fellow jury members.
Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.