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What Is a Jury Foreman?

By Constance Simmons
Updated May 16, 2024
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A jury foreman is a person who is elected by the jury or judge of a case and who acts as the jury’s representative and manager. The jury foreman is responsible for communicating the jury’s needs or concerns to the judge. Other duties include managing jurors, coordinating deliberations and delivering verdicts.

Creating the routine that the jury will follow during deliberations is one of the most important duties of a jury foreman. He or she decides how the evidence is reviewed and assures that all evidence and arguments made during the trial are considered. Another important job that pertains to deliberation is taking attendance. The foreman must establish that all jury members are present before beginning deliberations.

Managing deliberations and individual jurors also is an essential part of a foreman’s responsibilities. During deliberations, if arguments are out of control, the foreman must rein in the discussion and ensure that deliberations continue in a cordial way. The foreman also must make sure that each juror is providing his or her views of the case in the deliberation.

If the jury needs to communicate with the judge to ask questions that pertain to the law, it is the jury foreman who relays the question. The foreman also serves as the spokesperson after the verdict is reached. He or she is responsible for giving the judge the verdict and for delivering it in the courtroom. In some courts, the foreman reads the verdict from a verdict form, but there are courts where the judge reads each charge and the foreman responds with the verdict.

If there is a dispute about any evidence or testimony heard in the case, it is the jury foreman’s duty to ask the judge if the jury can hear the testimony again. Deliberations are temporarily halted, and the court is reconvened to hear the testimony. After the testimony is heard, the dispute over what exactly was said is solved, and deliberations are started again. Requesting to rehear testimony is a last resort because of the difficulties associated with reconvening the courtroom.

Polling the jury is another important job of the jury foreman. In criminal cases, when deliberations are nearing an end, the jury foreman must take a poll to determine if a unanimous decision has been reached. If the poll shows that the decision is not unanimous, the foreman must have each juror who is not in agreement share and explain his or her decision. In civil proceedings, a majority vote is all that is required, rather than a unanimous decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Jury Foreman?

A Jury Foreman, or Jury Foreperson, is the leader and spokesperson of a jury during a trial. They are chosen from among the jurors and have the crucial responsibility of facilitating deliberations to reach a fair verdict. The Jury Foreman guides discussions, maintains order, ensures all jurors express their opinions, and keeps deliberations focused on the evidence and judge's instructions. They play a pivotal role in announcing the jury's final decision in the courtroom. The position requires leadership skills, impartiality, and effective communication. The Jury Foreman must possess a deep understanding of the legal process and dedicate time and attention to the case.

How is the Jury Foreman selected?

The selection process of a Jury Foreman varies, with the judge sometimes appointing the Foreman based on their qualifications, including communication skills, leadership qualities, and impartiality. In other cases, jurors themselves elect the Foreman through consensus or voting. The ultimate goal is to select a fair, impartial, and capable Foreman who can effectively guide the jury through deliberations.

What are the qualifications to be a Jury Foreman?

There are no specific qualifications or formal requirements to be a Jury Foreman. The Foreman is chosen based on their ability to lead discussions effectively, understanding of the legal process, and commitment to fairness. Desirable qualities include communication skills, leadership abilities, open-mindedness, and a willingness to dedicate time and effort.

Can the Jury Foreman influence the jury's decision?

While the Jury Foreman holds influence as the leader and spokesperson, they cannot unilaterally dictate the final verdict. Their role is to guide discussions, promote fair deliberations, and help the jury collectively decide based on presented evidence. The Foreman's opinions carry weight, but the jury's decision should be a collective one, considering the evidence and judge's instructions.

What is the significance of the Jury Foreman's role in a trial?

The Jury Foreman plays a significant role in upholding the principles of the legal system. They provide leadership, maintain order, and ensure a fair and just verdict is reached. The Foreman represents the collective voice of the jury and contributes to the integrity and credibility of the trial process. Their role extends beyond the deliberation room as they announce the final decision in the courtroom, symbolizing the fairness and impartiality of the jury system.

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Discussion Comments

By anon328599 — On Apr 04, 2013

If anyone gets a chance, serve on the grand jury, my experience was a great one. It was an honor to serve.

By jmc88 — On May 16, 2012

Do they also have a grand jury foreman, does anyone know? It seems like it would make sense to have someone in charge, but I don't know. I am less familiar with how the grand jury process works than I am with how the trial jury works.

One of the other things I was thinking about while reading this is how does the jury decide that they are not going to be able to come to a decision? Is that up to the foreman, or is there a certain standard that most juries follow? For instance, if after 4 rounds of voting and deliberation, the jurors still haven't reached a conclusion, do they just "give up?"

It seems like the foreman would have a lot of power in the jury verdict. If that person is the main speaker, he or she might be able to subtly influence the other jurors.

By JimmyT — On May 16, 2012

@Azuza and @starrynight - I thought that every state reimbursed jurors for their time. It's not a lot, of course, but it's always something. In my state, jurors make 40 dollars per day plus so many cents per mile that they have to drive to the courthouse. I think 40 dollars is in the high side compared to a lot of places, though. I have a relative in another state that only made 15.

A lot of employers also have policies that they will pay jurors for the time that they are gone from work. In my state, it is a law that they have to pay you for the first 3 days you are gone. After that, it is up to them. They usually do it, though, out of respect.

It is a shame if your state doesn't pay jurors, since being selected for a jury comes with being registered to vote. You shouldn't be punished as a voter by not being compensated.

By matthewc23 — On May 15, 2012

@jcraig - I believe it differs from state to state. I was on a jury a few years ago. In my state, it is the jury itself that chooses the foreman. Luckily, in my group we had someone who volunteered to do it, because he had been a foreman before. He seemed very comfortable with the responsibilities. We didn't have a very difficult case, though. I'm with you that being even a regular juror on a major case would be very stressful.

I don't necessarily think the purpose of the foreman is to get every to agree, however. That would kind of be against the spirit of the system. Like the article says, their main goal is just as a liaison to the judge and as a peacekeeper of sorts.

By jcraig — On May 14, 2012

My one big question is who decides who the jury foreman is? Is it part of the jury selection process that the foreman is chosen, or is he or she appointed by the judge or the jury itself? Are there any special qualifications that the foreman has to have, or can it be anyone?

Has anyone here ever been the foreman on a jury? It seems like it would be hard to get all of the people to agree on a certain decision. I'm pretty sure if I was on a jury I wouldn't want to be the foreman. It seems like it would be easy for people to get angry at you if you do something that they don't like. I figure in the case of a high profile trial it would be even worse because you would have a lot of people wanting to talk to you about it. I'm pretty sure you can't talk about a trial while it is going on, right?

By starrynight — On May 14, 2012
@Azuza - I have to disagree with you -- I think that serving on a jury is part of our duty as American citizens, even though we don't get paid to do it. It's an important part of our justice system. I would be happy to serve as a jury foreman if I was doing jury duty.

It doesn't really sound that bad. Basically you act as a liaison between the jury and the judge and keep everything running smoothly during deliberations. I think really anyone could do it without too much trouble.

By Azuza — On May 13, 2012

@sunnySkys - I assume the process of selecting the foreman is different in different jurisdictions. However, my cousin recently served on a jury, and he told me that the jury selected their foreman after a few days of deliberations. So they already knew each other somewhat.

I would personally prefer not to serve as a jury foreman if I was doing jury duty. Jury duty already sounds kind of unpleasant, and you don't get paid to do it. The last thing I would want is to take on even more responsibility!

By sunnySkys — On May 12, 2012

I've never served on a jury, or even been a part of a jury pool (not yet anyway, I'm sure it will happen one day.) So I'm not exactly sure how a judge or jury would pick a foreman.

After all, the judge doesn't know the jurors, nor do the jurors know one another. So how could they decide who would be the most qualified to take on that role? I have to wonder if they have someone volunteer to do it, or pull a name out of a hat, or draw straws!

It would make sense to choose the foreman randomly, because they definitely don't have enough information to make an informed choice.

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