Six-Member and Twelve-Member Juries: An Empirical Study of Trial Results

The most convincing basis for criticism of the Supreme Court’s conclusion that there is “no discernible difference” between the results reached by the six-member juries and those reached by the twelve-member juries would be empirical data suggesting a contrary conclusion. A recent study by the Institute of Judicial Administration comparing twelve-member and six-member juries in over 650 civil cases in New Jersey courts disclosed less than a two percentage-point difference between the respective percentages of verdicts rendered for plaintiffs by the two different-sized juries. The same study seemed to indicate that the damage awards in twelve-member jury cases were higher than those in six-member jury cases. The reliability of these findings is suspect, however, since in each case the lawyers were permitted to choose the size of the jury impaneled and there is strong evidence that lawyers requested twelve-member juries in cases in which the issues were complex or the potential damages large.