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What Is a Jury Foreman?

A jury foreman is responsible for communicating a jury's needs to a judge.
A jury foreman decides how court evidence is reviewed during a case.
A jury foreman typically serves as the jury spokesperson.
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  • Written By: Constance Simmons
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 August 2014
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A jury foreman is a person who is elected by the jury or judge of a case and who acts as the jury’s representative and manager. The jury foreman is responsible for communicating the jury’s needs or concerns to the judge. Other duties include managing jurors, coordinating deliberations and delivering verdicts.

Creating the routine that the jury will follow during deliberations is one of the most important duties of a jury foreman. He or she decides how the evidence is reviewed and assures that all evidence and arguments made during the trial are considered. Another important job that pertains to deliberation is taking attendance. The foreman must establish that all jury members are present before beginning deliberations.

Managing deliberations and individual jurors also is an essential part of a foreman’s responsibilities. During deliberations, if arguments are out of control, the foreman must rein in the discussion and ensure that deliberations continue in a cordial way. The foreman also must make sure that each juror is providing his or her views of the case in the deliberation.

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If the jury needs to communicate with the judge to ask questions that pertain to the law, it is the jury foreman who relays the question. The foreman also serves as the spokesperson after the verdict is reached. He or she is responsible for giving the judge the verdict and for delivering it in the courtroom. In some courts, the foreman reads the verdict from a verdict form, but there are courts where the judge reads each charge and the foreman responds with the verdict.

If there is a dispute about any evidence or testimony heard in the case, it is the jury foreman’s duty to ask the judge if the jury can hear the testimony again. Deliberations are temporarily halted, and the court is reconvened to hear the testimony. After the testimony is heard, the dispute over what exactly was said is solved, and deliberations are started again. Requesting to rehear testimony is a last resort because of the difficulties associated with reconvening the courtroom.

Polling the jury is another important job of the jury foreman. In criminal cases, when deliberations are nearing an end, the jury foreman must take a poll to determine if a unanimous decision has been reached. If the poll shows that the decision is not unanimous, the foreman must have each juror who is not in agreement share and explain his or her decision. In civil proceedings, a majority vote is all that is required, rather than a unanimous decision.

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Discuss this Article

anon328599
Post 8

If anyone gets a chance, serve on the grand jury, my experience was a great one. It was an honor to serve.

jmc88
Post 7

Do they also have a grand jury foreman, does anyone know? It seems like it would make sense to have someone in charge, but I don't know. I am less familiar with how the grand jury process works than I am with how the trial jury works.

One of the other things I was thinking about while reading this is how does the jury decide that they are not going to be able to come to a decision? Is that up to the foreman, or is there a certain standard that most juries follow? For instance, if after 4 rounds of voting and deliberation, the jurors still haven't reached a conclusion, do they just "give up?"

It seems like the foreman would have a lot of power in the jury verdict. If that person is the main speaker, he or she might be able to subtly influence the other jurors.

JimmyT
Post 6

@Azuza and @starrynight - I thought that every state reimbursed jurors for their time. It's not a lot, of course, but it's always something. In my state, jurors make 40 dollars per day plus so many cents per mile that they have to drive to the courthouse. I think 40 dollars is in the high side compared to a lot of places, though. I have a relative in another state that only made 15.

A lot of employers also have policies that they will pay jurors for the time that they are gone from work. In my state, it is a law that they have to pay you for the first 3 days you are gone. After that, it is up to them. They usually do it, though, out of respect.

It is a shame if your state doesn't pay jurors, since being selected for a jury comes with being registered to vote. You shouldn't be punished as a voter by not being compensated.

matthewc23
Post 5

@jcraig - I believe it differs from state to state. I was on a jury a few years ago. In my state, it is the jury itself that chooses the foreman. Luckily, in my group we had someone who volunteered to do it, because he had been a foreman before. He seemed very comfortable with the responsibilities. We didn't have a very difficult case, though. I'm with you that being even a regular juror on a major case would be very stressful.

I don't necessarily think the purpose of the foreman is to get every to agree, however. That would kind of be against the spirit of the system. Like the article says, their main goal is just as a liaison to the judge and as a peacekeeper of sorts.

jcraig
Post 4

My one big question is who decides who the jury foreman is? Is it part of the jury selection process that the foreman is chosen, or is he or she appointed by the judge or the jury itself? Are there any special qualifications that the foreman has to have, or can it be anyone?

Has anyone here ever been the foreman on a jury? It seems like it would be hard to get all of the people to agree on a certain decision. I'm pretty sure if I was on a jury I wouldn't want to be the foreman. It seems like it would be easy for people to get angry at you if you do something that they don't like. I figure in the case of a high profile trial it would be even worse because you would have a lot of people wanting to talk to you about it. I'm pretty sure you can't talk about a trial while it is going on, right?

starrynight
Post 3
@Azuza - I have to disagree with you -- I think that serving on a jury is part of our duty as American citizens, even though we don't get paid to do it. It's an important part of our justice system. I would be happy to serve as a jury foreman if I was doing jury duty.

It doesn't really sound that bad. Basically you act as a liaison between the jury and the judge and keep everything running smoothly during deliberations. I think really anyone could do it without too much trouble.

Azuza
Post 2

@sunnySkys - I assume the process of selecting the foreman is different in different jurisdictions. However, my cousin recently served on a jury, and he told me that the jury selected their foreman after a few days of deliberations. So they already knew each other somewhat.

I would personally prefer not to serve as a jury foreman if I was doing jury duty. Jury duty already sounds kind of unpleasant, and you don't get paid to do it. The last thing I would want is to take on even more responsibility!

sunnySkys
Post 1

I've never served on a jury, or even been a part of a jury pool (not yet anyway, I'm sure it will happen one day.) So I'm not exactly sure how a judge or jury would pick a foreman.

After all, the judge doesn't know the jurors, nor do the jurors know one another. So how could they decide who would be the most qualified to take on that role? I have to wonder if they have someone volunteer to do it, or pull a name out of a hat, or draw straws!

It would make sense to choose the foreman randomly, because they definitely don't have enough information to make an informed choice.

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