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To read comments to this article, go here
Proposed Voir Dire Questions from Novell and SCO
Tuesday, February 23 2010 @ 10:41 PM EST

The parties have filed their proposed voir dire questions, the questions each party would like potential jurors to be asked when trying to find the jurors who will hear and decide SCO v. Novell.

Here's a definition of voir dire, and here's a very good explanation from ABA of the voir dire process and why some feel voir dire is more important than the trial itself. The article explains that "Prospective jurors may be challenged for cause if they exhibit a bias for or against one of the parties." So the questions are supposed to help the lawyers find out who might harbor a bias. The article also confirms what I've been telling you that juries are remarkably capable, and in fact the article says this:

"Why should anyone think that 12 persons brought in from the street, selected in various ways for their lack of general ability, should have any special capacity to decide controversies between persons," asked formed United States Solicitor General Erwin Griswold. Yet, More often than not, most observers agree that when jurors are left to apply their experiences and common sense to the evidence presented to them, they render as impartial a brand of justice as is humanly possible.
Novell's most interesting question: "20. Do you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, work for or in close contact with the accounting or financial forecasting industry?"

Here are the filings:

02/23/2010 - 726 - Proposed Voir Dire by Defendant Novell, Inc.. (Brennan, Sterling) (Entered: 02/23/2010)

02/23/2010 - 727 - Proposed Voir Dire by Plaintiff SCO Group. (Hatch, Brent) (Entered: 02/23/2010)

With that background, here are SCO's questions:
PROPOSED VOIR DIRE QUESTIONS

1. Raise your hand if you have ever had someone accuse you of writing something inaccurate about someone else.

2. Raise your hand if you have been accused of taking credit for an idea that was not your own.

3. Raise your hand if you or someone in your immediate family has worked for a computer company or a computer software company.

4. Raise your hand if you have very positive opinions of large computer companies such as Novell, IBM, Microsoft, Sun, etc.

5. Raise your hand if you have ever used a computer operating system called UNIX or Linux.

6. Raise your hand if you have any familiarity with "open source" software.

7. Raise your hand if you know what Linux is.

8. Raise your hand if you like to keep up with news in the computer/technology sector.

9. Raise your hand if you have ever seen, read, or heard anything about disputes related to software such as UNIX and Linux.

10. Raise your hand if you have ever worked for a company that has declared bankruptcy.

11. Raise your hand if you feel you have strong feelings about a company in bankruptcy bringing claims for losses.

12. Raise your hand if you feel you have lost money due to a company seeking bankruptcy protection or have had a bad experience because a company sought bankruptcy protection.

13. Raise your hand if you or a member of your immediate family has been sued.

14. Raise your hand if you have ever worked for a large corporation.

15. Raise your hand if you have a college education.

16. Raise your hand if you have any work experience or special training in software development or sales.

17. Raise your hand if you have any experience with copyrights or patents.

I think number 9 must be the "get rid of Groklaw readers" voir dire question.

: D

And here are Novell's proposed questions:

Pursuant to the "Trial Order" dated February 4, 2010 (Dkt. No. 626), Novell hereby submits this set of proposed voir dire questions for the Court to include in its voir dire of the potential juror panel:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is our purpose here today to select from among you a group of individuals to serve as jurors in a civil dispute involving a corporate plaintiff, The SCO Group, Inc., and a corporate defendant, Novell, Inc. You will be asked a series of questions that are designed to assist the Court and the attorneys representing the parties involved in the dispute in determining whether there is any reason why you should not sit as a juror in this particular dispute. The questions that you will be asked are not intended to offend you in any way, and are not being asked simply out of anyone's personal curiosity. Instead, they simply are intended to see if there is anything in your background that might affect your ability to fairly weigh the evidence to be presented without any bias for or against any of the parties.

We will now proceed with the questions. Please listen carefully to each of the questions as we go through them. If any of you has a question or a problem during the process please raise your hand.

1. Would any of you be unduly burdened with financial, business, or family problems if the trial of this case lasts as many as 15 trial days?

2. Based on what we have described so far, do you or any of your close friends or relatives work or have any business connection with any of the parties to this action or think that you know anything about this case or the parties, The SCO Group and Novell?

3. Have any of you ever served as a juror before?

If yes:

a. In what kind of case?

b. What was the outcome?

4. Have you ever been involved in a lawsuit?

If yes:

a. In what kind of case?

b. What was the outcome?

5. Have any of you ever been personally involved in a breach of contract dispute?

If yes:

a. What was the dispute?

b. Were you accused of breach of contract or did you accuse another person or entity of breach of contract?

c. Was a court action filed?

d. What was the outcome?

6. Have any of you ever specifically negotiated the terms of a written contract?

If yes:

a. What was the contract?

b. Did you retain legal counsel for the negotiations?

7. Have any of you ever worked for a company that has been involved in a breach of contract lawsuit? If yes:
a. What was the outcome?

b. How did you feel about the outcome?

8. Have any of you ever been personally involved in an action for slander of title?

If yes:

a. What was the dispute?

b. Were you accused of slander of title or did you accuse another person or entity of slander of title?

c. Was a court action filed?

d. What was the outcome?

9. In connection with your employment, do you have anything to do with the adjustment of claims or the settlement of claims for damages?

10. Have you or any member of your immediate family ever had a claim against anyone for damages? (If so, what kind of claim? What did it involve? Was this claim compromised or settled out of court, or did the matter go to trial? Would that fact influence you in any way in reaching a verdict in this case? Were you satisfied with the outcome of this claim?)

11. Has anyone ever had a claim for damages against you or a member of your immediate family? (If so, what kind of claim? What did it involve? Was this claim compromised or settled out of court, or did the matter go to trial? Would that fact influence you in any way in reaching a verdict in this case? Were you satisfied with the outcome of this claim?)

12. Do you know any of the following persons who may be called to testify in this case?

[Read Witness Lists]

13. Do you know, or have you had any dealings with, any of the following companies or businesses?

[Read List of Businesses Likely to Be Mentioned During the Trial]

14. If so, describe your connection or affiliation with any of these companies or businesses.

15. Do you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, have any experience, knowledge or advanced education in any aspect of the computer hardware or software industry?

16. Do you regularly read computer- or technology-oriented magazines?

17. Are you familiar with the open source model of computer programming or with open source operating systems, such as Linux?

18. Are you familiar with operating systems, such as Microsoft DOS or Windows or Apple operating systems?

19. Are you familiar with other operating systems, such as Netware, UNIX, or Unixware?

20. Do you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, work for or in close contact with the accounting or financial forecasting industry?

21. Do you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, work for or in close contact with law firms or the legal system?

22. Do you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, work for companies involved in licensing intellectual property or software?

a. If yes, please describe that work experience.
23. Have you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, been negatively impacted by the recent economic downturn?

24. Do you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, maintain a weblog, or blog?

25. Have you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, ever filed a copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office?

26. Have you, or anyone in your family or any of your close friends, ever been involved in the sale of a business or assets of a business?

a. If yes:

i. When?

ii. What was the nature of business?

iii. Describe your involvement.

iv. Did any disputes arise concerning the sale? If so, please describe.

27. Do any of you know of any reason why you think that you could not sit in this case and render a just, fair, honest and impartial verdict?
I think number 24 is likely Novell's "Groklaw" question.

Update: Here's an interesting article about questions lawyers sometimes ask in voir dire. For example:

Knowing that she doesn't have time to probe all relevant areas, though, Zellner concludes with a somewhat metaphysical question: "If you were my client, what would you want me to know about someone like you on the jury?"

This catch-all query sometimes prompts additional disclosures about relevant experiences, biases and beliefs, says Zellner. Even if it doesn't, though, having prospective jurors imagine themselves in the party's place emphasizes that the case involves real people like themselves, who deserve full, fair and impartial consideration.


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