Beginning in July, jurors in Illinois will have the possibility of asking questions in civil cases as a result of an Illinois Supreme Court rule change. Nearly half of the states in the country allow jurors to ask questions and all federal circuit courts allow jurors to ask questions.
Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride says the rule “enhances juror engagement, juror comprehension and attention to the proceeding and gives jurors a better appreciation for our system of justice.”
I absolutely agree with his statement. Jury duty is an important part of society but sadly too many people are reluctant to serve when called upon for jury duty. If we give jurors an opportunity to ask questions, it will allow jurors to be more engaged which will perhaps make jury duty a more exciting proposition for prospective jurors.
The new rule will be implemented at the discretion of the trial judge which means that in the end it will be up to judges to allow jury questions and to ultimately decide which jury questions will be eventually be asked in court. The rule is another reminder of the importance of the judicial branch of government and the power individual judges wield.
A judge has the power to on the one hand provide protection for those who have been harmed and on the other hand dispose of frivolous lawsuits that clog our courts. Good judges strive to wield this power wisely, which is why we as citizens need to pay attention to the individuals we elect to serve on the bench. The foundation of a properly functioning system of justice begins with the outcome of these judicial elections.
The importance of judicial elections cannot be understated. It is up to us as citizens to pay attention to the upcoming judicial races on the ballot this November.