Judge Wolfson, distinguished visiting professor at DePaul University College of Law, was quoted in a Chicago Daily Law Bulletin story reporting on a Continuing Legal Education seminar, hosted by Cook County Circuit Judge Lynn M. Egan this past Friday.
The seminar was on the Illinois Supreme Court Rule 243, which took effect July 1. The new rule officially recognizes what has been common practice among some judges in the past, of allowing written questions by jurors for witnesses, to be submitted to the judge in a case, for possible use in court.
Under the rule the judge reads it to the lawyers outside of the jury's presence. A lawyer may object, prompting a judge to decide whether the question should be admitted, excluded or modified. It is better to have relevant jurors questions, dealt with in this manner, rather than having those question arise during deliberations when you don't have the witness on the stand any more.
The press release from the Illinois Supreme Court stated that the rule had undergone extensive study since it was received by the Supreme Court Rules Committee in August 2010, and was discussed at a public hearing. Chief Justice Kilbride stated, "Based on the comments of those who have used or seen the procedure at trials, such a rule enhances juror engagement, juror comprehension and attention to the proceeding and gives jurors a better appreciation for our system of justice.
The Law Bulletin story relates that Judge Wolfon allowed jurors to ask questions in about 25 cases starting in the early 1980s. He states that "I loved it. The jury loved it. It raised their attention level and brought the jury into the case,", "The questions are almost always smart, to the point and show that they do pay attention.", "It's a really progressive, good move."