Picking a Jury With the Help of the Oakland County Circuit Court Bioform Report

Most lawyers know that only a small handful of cases ever go to trial (5% is a generally accepted figure). Given this, many lawyers never actually have to prepare for a jury trial, including preparing for and picking a jury. As a result, many lawyers are not aware of the resources available to assist them in picking their jury.

The facts, claims and parties in a case directly affect the types of jurors the seasoned trial attorney hopes to have sit on the jury. Typically, well before jury selection, we discuss at length who we feel are the ideal jurors in a given case and, conversely, those that we would not want on the panel. This usually entails discussions about gender, age, education level, occupation, legal history, etc. So once we have honed in on what we feel is the best (and worst) type of juror, how do we go about identifying them from the juror pool? Here is where the Court’s Bioform Report comes into play.

Prior to trial, the Court makes available to parties and their attorneys what the Court calls its “Bioform Report.” This report is available in the jury office (Dept. 448) at the courthouse. Note: the Judge in a given case does not provide this report to the attorneys; they must obtain it themselves if they want to review it. The Bioform Report is confidential to parties and attorneys and should be treated as such.

The Bioform Report identifies all of the potential jurors summoned to the Court for jury duty on a particular day (typically 150-200 people). Prior to coming to the Court, each potential juror is provided with a questionnaire they fill out disclosing basic information concerning them, which the Court then compiles into the Bioform Report. This information includes the following information about each potential juror:

  1. Their full name and city of residence (no address) listed alphabetically by last name;
  2. Their occupation and that of their spouse (if any);
  3. Whether they are an office holder or law enforcement officer;
  4. Their residence status (e., whether they own property or rent);
  5. Their marital status (single, married, divorced) including number of children;
  6. Their education in number of years (g., high school 1-4 years, college 1-6 or more years, trade/vocational school and # of years);
  7. Whether a family member or friend has been involved in an accident, whether alcohol was involved and whether there were injuries suffered;
  8. Whether they have been a party to a criminal or civil suit (plaintiff, defendant, witness);
  9. Whether they have been convicted of a misdemeanor.

This information can be used to identify jurors who trial counsel would like to have on the jury as well as those they do not want. It also gives insight into the background of jurors once they are chosen to serve on the jury.

Once at the courthouse on trial day, potential jurors are randomly selected for trial before a particular Judge (approximately 20 at a time). At that time, a revised report is generated identifying only those jurors assigned to your Judge’s courtroom. This abbreviated report contains each potential juror’s name, city of residence, occupation and juror number but not any of the additional information contained on the full Bioform Report. This revised report is provided to the Judge and his/her staff who, in turn, provide it to trial counsel, who may then use it during voir dire to pick the jury.

Trial counsel can wait until they receive the abbreviated Bioform Report to begin the process of reviewing potential juror information. However, the abbreviated report does not provide all available information regarding potential jurors. Further, in our experience, at this stage of the case time is short, things move quickly and there are usually other pressing matters (voir dire, opening statements, jury instruction, exhibits, etc.). Thus, we find the better practice is to review the full Bioform Report well in advance of trial and voir dire to ensure that there is time to fully assess all of the potential jurors and all available information concerning them.

In closing, the Court’s Bioform Report is a valuable tool that trial counsel can use to assist them in picking their jury. Knowing what it is, where you can get it and how it can help is a crucial step in picking the best jury possible in your next trial.

For more information on the Court’s Bioform Report, please contact Leif Anderson at landerson@nagmlaw.com.