Most court cases in Pennsylvania do not result in a jury trial. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, in 2021 approximately 1,400 of the almost 262,000 processed civil and criminal cases were decided by a jury in the common pleas courts of Pennsylvania. Though jury practice is not common, there are several resources to help those who decide to have their cases tried by a jury.
This guide highlights the sources available at Jenkins on Jury Practice in Pennsylvania. The resources include sources available to Jenkins' members freely online, on member databases, or in the library. Onsite Lexis and Westlaw access is noted when available. Additional resources may also be useful and library users are encouraged to search the Jenkins' catalog. Primary source materials like statutes, court rules, and caselaw should also be consulted; see the PA Law guides for how to access primary source materials.
The following key terms are useful to know when engaging in jury practice.
Grand Jury: "A grand jury is a body of men and women selected and summoned to serve before a competent court and charged to inquire with regard to crimes committed within its jurisdiction and to present all offenders against the law. The grand jury has an ancient role in determining if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and a related responsibility of protecting citizens against unfounded criminal prosecutions. It is an inquisitorial and accusatorial, rather than a trial, body." 38A C.J.S. Grand Juries § 1 (2021).
Jury Instructions: "Most jurisdictions have published sets of model or pattern jury instructions, used by judges to explain the applicable law to jurors. Model jury instructions are useful in research because they provide a concise summary of a jurisdiction's law on the issues covered, often accompanied by notes summarizing the leading cases." Kent C. Olson, Legal Research in a Nutshell § 7-6 (14th ed. 2021).
Jury Verdict: "The decision of the issues in an action which a jury orally announces to the court, and which is received and recorded at the direction of the court, is the verdict of the jury." 50 Pennsylvania Law Encyclopedia Trial § 381 (2nd ed. 2021).
Voir Dire: "Voir dire is the process by which the court and the lawyers first question jurors and then decide which members of the jury pool will hear a particular case. Although often described as a process of jury selection, voir dire is in fact the process of de-selection where lawyers seek to identify the least suitable jurors for the case and then have those jurors either struck for cause or excused through a peremptory challenge." Ellen Kreitzberg, Jury Selection: The Law, Art and Science of Selecting a Jury § 10.1 (2020-2021).
The following resource provides various statistics related to Pennsylvania courts.
Caseload Statistics Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania