Arizona state courts will be the first in the country to eliminate peremptory strikes of jurors, the Arizona Supreme Court announced Monday.
The rule changes, which take effect Jan. 1, come as an attempt to improve the fairness of the jury selection process, according to a court news release. Peremptory strikes raise concerns of discrimination because attorneys can remove potential jurors without explanation.
Arizona will prohibit the practice for civil and criminal jury trials. The state had previously put temporary restrictions on peremptory challenges.
“Eliminating peremptory strikes of jurors will reduce the opportunity for misuse of the jury selection process and will improve jury participation and fairness,” Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said in a statement.
Supporters of the new rules said in written comments that the move would help juries be more reflective of the community and help eliminate discrimination or unconscious bias. Opponents, including the office of Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) argued the changes are unnecessary and could make it more difficult for litigants to receive fair jury trials.
As part of the changes, Arizona will focus on “sharpening the process for removing potential jurors for cause, such as conflicts of interest or personal biases that prevent impartiality,” the news release said. Trial judges also will be trained to make sure lawyers have enough time to argue why a juror should be removed for cause.
About 600 criminal jury trials are conducted annually by the superior courts in Arizona, the release said.