IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump’s first criminal trial jury already has two lawyers on it

Lawyers aren’t always a popular choice of juror. We’ll see how that affects the first criminal trial against a former U.S. president.


There’s a line of thinking that trial lawyers shouldn’t pick fellow lawyers as jurors. Such jurors might think that they know better than the lawyers trying the case. Non-lawyers might look to them for guidance during deliberations and unduly credit their views.

And yet, Donald Trump’s jury at his first criminal trial, which is still being picked, already has two lawyers on it. So, what should we make of that?

As is true for all seven jurors so far, it’s not so much that they were selected as that they weren’t rejected.

Technically, all we can make of it is that neither side saw fit to use their limited strikes against those jurors. As is true for all seven jurors so far, it’s not so much that they were selected as that they weren’t rejected. While the judge can dismiss an unlimited number of potential jurors for being unfair or otherwise unqualified, the parties only have 10 strikes each from larger panels to assemble the 12-person jury (plus additional strikes for alternate jurors).But let’s consider what it could mean.

On the one hand, Trump could benefit from lawyers on the jury. As we know from its hush money trial shorthand, the case has a salacious background for a falsifying business records matter (the defendant has pleaded not guilty). So, lawyers may generally be better suited to cut through that salaciousness, to answer the ultimate question: whether the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump made or caused false entries in the business records of an enterprise, with intent to defraud that included an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.

If you didn’t have a great time reading that last line, then perhaps you can see how a non-lawyer might lean on a lawyer for guidance in the jury room. (Of course, Judge Juan Merchan will give legal instructions at the end of the case and throughout the trial.)

On the other hand, not using their strikes on lawyers may have signaled the prosecutors’ confidence in the legal minutiae of their case in addition to the powerful backstory. In fact, if Manhattan prosecutors do their job correctly, then none of the jurors should have to be lawyers to understand their case, however novel the legal theory underpinning it may be.Again, the legal presence on the jury so far may be more a matter of de-selection than selection. That is, the parties feeling that they can live with those jurors as compared with other ones they felt the need to strike, or worse ones possibly waiting in the wings. Relatedly, this analysis only addresses the notion of lawyers generally, without regard to the demeanor and other characteristics of these jurors, which can only be assessed in the courtroom and undoubtedly were assessed by the lawyers making these difficult decisions.

Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if any more lawyers make it through. If the process continues at the pace it picked up on Tuesday, then we may know by the end of the week. Court was off Wednesday and resumes Thursday.

Subscribe to the Deadline: Legal Newsletter for weekly updates on the top legal stories, including news from the Supreme Court, the Donald Trump cases and more.