How Best Evidence Recruits Its Surrogate Jurors
The quality of the sample of surrogate jurors is the most important determinant of reliability. Reliability refers to the likelihood that the same results will be found in subsequent samples (i.e., the actual jurors at trial). Random sampling of jury-eligible citizens from the venue is the only way to ensure the surrogate jurors are a representative sample. Failure to use a random sampling method invalidates the results and casts serious doubts on any conclusions that can be drawn. Random sampling is a prerequisite of scientific methodology and provides the basis for inferential analyses which are governed by the laws of probability. In jury research, the paramount goal is to gain insight into how the actual jury will evaluate your case. At trial, the actual jurors are drawn randomly from driver‘s license or voter registration databases (depending on the actual jury pool source for the court in the venue). The only way to reliably assess how an actual jury will perceive your case is to simulate the same method that the courts use—random sampling. If a research sample of adequate size is drawn randomly, then the scientific methodology and the laws of probability ensure the reliability of the research results.
Unfortunately, most research organizations fail to adhere to scientific methods such as random sampling, and consequently produce unreliable results. Common practice within the industry is to place a newspaper ad in the classified section, ask for referrals from other participants, or use temporary employment agencies. All of these methods fail to produce a scientifically reliable sample of jury-eligible citizens. The use of a classified ad for recruiting surrogate jurors limits the sample to those actively looking for jobs or wanting to change occupations. This sub-group is not representative of the entire population of jury-eligible citizens. Moreover, it is a sub-group that generally has characteristic differences from the larger population in values and beliefs regarding money; which are always relevant in civil litigation matters where the dispute involves monetary damages. It is easy and cheap for competitors to obtain a sample of unemployed surrogate jurors. However, such a sample is not representative of any venue, and moreover, unemployed jurors might not carry as much influence in guiding group decisions among gainfully employed jurors at the actual trial. Unfortunately, the effects these slipshod sampling methods have on outcomes can never be truly ascertained or offset; and consequently, the results of poor research methods can be misleading and corresponding conclusions can be erroneous.
Many of our competitors “cut corners” on sampling and recruiting to reduce costs. For example, their surrogate jurors are re-used or obtained through “refer-a-friend” requests. Both of these competitor methods are cheap and easy, however they produce biased samples of jurors. The courts never request jurors to recommend friends or family members to serve, and once jurors have served they are excluded for additional jury service for a determined period. When jurors have been exposed to several cases over a brief period they often become jaded, desensitized, or hyper-cynical and no longer react to cases in the same way. Best Evidence recognizes the inherent dangers of poor sampling methods and we never re-cycle jurors or accept participant referrals.
Random sampling is more time consuming and expensive, but it is unquestionably worth the extra effort and expense. During recruitment, prospective participants are screened for affiliations with or uncommon knowledge of the relevant parties in order to eliminate obvious “cause strikes” and preserve security. The screening process also incorporates decoy parties and issues as an additional layer of security. Once prospective jurors have been carefully screened, they are offered a monetary incentive to participate in our opinion research which is described as a preliminary exercise in alternative dispute resolution. We have found that most citizens have an intrinsic interest in opinion research when it involves civil matters in their community. Our experience at Best Evidence has been that research participants procured under our methods and approach the task with the same dedication and sense of civic duty as would be expected of real jurors.
As a secondary element to ensure that the sample is representative of the venue, we utilize stratified profiles for key demographic characteristics derived from the population statistics for the venue. This means that we are constantly cross-checking the composition of our surrogate jurors during sampling and recruitment to ensure that they match the demographics of the particular venue. We even have stratified quotas for socio-economic characteristics such as proportions of blue-collar versus white-collar occupations within the venue. We are able to procure samples of gainfully-employed surrogate jurors with a diverse range of occupations because we pay them a fair incentive for their time. Employment status and occupation are characteristics that carry influence in jury group decisions and it is critical that these factors are reflected in jury research. Not only is good information is worth paying for, but cheap information can be ultimately more costly if it produces erroneous results that misguide strategic decisions in million dollar litigation.
The elaborate, scientifically-driven procedures at Best Evidence ensure that our research produces a representative cross-section of surrogate jurors that match the composition of the actual venue. Our adherence to the scientific method of random sampling ensures that we cover and capture the prevalent experiences, values, and beliefs in the venue which invariably drive jury perceptions and decisions about your case. It is our unyielding scientific rigor that allows us to claim the highest degrees of reliability and validity in the industry while our competitors’ claims are riddled with disclaimers. We believe the sample is the single most important factor affecting the validity of jury research. Until the court starts recruiting jurors through newspaper “want ads”, “refer-a-friend” policies, or temp agencies, we will continue to randomly sample ours.