Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1541 to establish statutory
guidance that Judges must consider during voir dire for criminal trials
to ensure a fair and impartial jury. Prior to signing into law AB 1541
the judge in a criminal case conducts the initial examination of prospective jurors.
Upon completion of the initial examination the attorneys have the right
to examine prospective jurors; with the judge limiting oral and direct
questioning of prospective jurors. AB 1541 requires the judge to permit
the attorneys to conduct jury examination that is designed to discover
bias or prejudice with regard to the circumstances of the particular criminal
case or the parties. The law requires the scope of the examination by
the attorneys to be within reasonable limits prescribed by the judge.
The law also requires the judge to permit supplemental time for questioning
based on the individual responses or conduct of jurors that may show attitudes
inconsistent with suitability to serve as a fair and impartial jurors.
The law requires the judge in his or her discretion to consider the use
of written questionnaires for jury examination when required by counsel.
The law also requires the judge at the earliest time to provide the attorneys
with the list of prospective jurors in order to facilitate the jury selection process.
AB 1541 is designed to be able to question and gain information from prospective
jurors to ensure Californian’s right to fair and impartial juries.