Washington Law Review

Essay

Discernible Differences: A Survey of Civil Jury Demands

March 01, 2012 | 87 Wash. L. Rev. 237

Abstract:  Under Washington State’s historic default rules, the civil jury consisted of twelve persons unless both parties expressly consented to a “less number.” The Washington Legislature reversed this presumption in 1972. Washington’s civil jury now consists of six persons, unless one of the parties files a specific demand for twelve. It appears, however, that litigants have refused to embrace this change; a survey of 2883 civil jury demands filed in King County Superior Court in 2009 to 2010 demonstrates that litigants overwhelmingly prefer twelve-member juries. This paper presents this survey’s results and explores what they might mean, positing seven considerations that may explain litigants’ shared preference for traditional juries. I hope that the survey and accompanying exploration will remind us of the “great purposes that gave rise to the jury in the first place.”

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