Before we decide what we should do during this first phase of the trial, we should define it and give it a proper label. Voir dire is a terrible label for this phase (no one can even agree on how to pronounce it). It is a French phrase that literally means "to speak the truth." Well, that should apply to everyone who takes an oath to tell the truth at trial. Generally speaking, though, voir dire means a preliminary examination to test the suitability of a potential juror or the competence of a potential witness. So, if we were to use English rather than French to describe the first phase, maybe we could call it "Preliminary Panel Member Examination."
However, that title would fit only one part of this phase of trial. There are really three parts to voir dire: individual written examination, individual oral examination, and group oral examination. For the individual written examination, the title "Preliminary Panel Member Examination" is probably appropriate. In these questionnaires, we ask the panel members questions in a sterile, test-like, examination fashion. But for the other part of this phase-the in-court, oral exchange between you and the individual, or between you and the group-that is not a good label. That part should be called "Conversations with Panel Members" because that is what you want to achieve: a conversation with your panel members.
Eric R. Carpenter,
Rethinking Voir Dire
, 2012 Army Law 15
Available at: https://ecollections.law.fiu.edu/faculty_publications/45