Rule 47 – Selecting Jurors

(a) Examining Jurors. The court may permit the parties or their attorneys to examine prospective jurors or may itself do so. If the court examines the jurors, it must permit the parties or their attorneys to make any further inquiry it considers proper, or must itself ask any of their additional questions it considers proper.

(b) Peremptory Challenges. The court must allow the number of peremptory challenges provided by 28 U.S.C. §1870.

(c) Excusing a Juror. During trial or deliberation, the court may excuse a juror for good cause.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 47 governs the selection of jurors in civil trials in federal courts. It details the procedures for the examination of jurors and the challenges to their service, aiming to ensure a fair and impartial jury is empaneled. Here’s a concise summary and explanation:


  1. Examination of Jurors:
  • The rule permits the court to conduct an initial examination of prospective jurors. Additionally, it allows attorneys for the parties to directly question jurors under the court’s direction and supervision. The extent and nature of these questions are typically at the discretion of the court.
  1. Challenges:
  • There are two types of challenges to jurors mentioned: peremptory challenges and challenges for cause.
    • Peremptory Challenges: Each party is allowed a limited number of peremptory challenges, which can be used to exclude jurors without stating a reason. The number of these challenges is determined by statute.
    • Challenges for Cause: There is no limit on challenges for cause, which require a valid reason for believing a juror cannot be impartial. Reasons might include bias, prejudice, or a relationship to one of the parties involved.
  1. Court’s Role in Challenges:
  • The rule specifies that the court has the authority to permit the parties or their attorneys to conduct the examination of jurors or may itself conduct the examinations. It also sets the framework for how challenges, particularly those for cause, are to be addressed and resolved.


Rule 47 serves a critical function in the jury selection process by providing a structured yet flexible framework that balances efficiency with the need for a fair trial. The ability for parties to question jurors directly is a key aspect of this rule, as it helps uncover potential biases or conflicts of interest that could affect the trial’s outcome.

The distinction between peremptory challenges and challenges for cause under Rule 47 is significant. Peremptory challenges, while limited in number, give attorneys the ability to shape the jury according to their strategic needs without explanation. In contrast, challenges for cause are crucial for ensuring that jurors who might not be able to judge the case impartially are excluded, based on specific, articulated reasons.

The rule’s provisions reflect the judiciary’s attempt to strike a balance between the parties’ rights to a favorable jury and the public’s interest in ensuring that juries are unbiased and fair. By outlining clear procedures for the examination and challenging of jurors, Rule 47 plays a fundamental role in upholding the integrity of the jury system and, by extension, the broader legal process in federal civil litigation.


(As amended Feb. 28, 1966, eff. July 1, 1966; Apr. 30, 1991, eff. Dec. 1, 1991; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

Note to Subdivision (a). This permits a practice found very useful by Federal trial judges. For an example of a state practice in which the examination by the court is supplemented by further inquiry by counsel, see Rule 27 of the Code of Rules for the District Courts of Minnesota, 186 Minn. xxxiii (1932), 3 Minn.Stat. (Mason, supp. 1936) Appendix, 4, p. 1062.

Note to Subdivision (b). The provision for an alternate juror is one often found in modern state codes. See N.C.Code (1935) §2330(a); Ohio Gen.Code Ann. (Page, Supp. 1926–1935) §11419–47; Pa.Stat.Ann. (Purdon, Supp. 1936) Title 17, §1153; compare U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §417a (Alternate jurors in criminal trials); 1 N.J.Rev.Stat. (1937) 2:91A–1, 2:91A–2, 2:91A–3.

Provisions for qualifying, drawing, and challenging of jurors are found in U.S.C., Title 28:

§411 [now 1861] (Qualifications and exemptions)

§412 [now 1864] (Manner of drawing)

§413 [now 1865] (Apportioned in district)

§415 [see 1862] (Not disqualified because of race or color)

§416 [now 1867] (Venire; service and return)

§417 [now 1866] (Talesmen for petit jurors)

§418 [now 1866] (Special juries)

§423 [now 1869] (Jurors not to serve more than once a year)

§424 now 1870

and D.C. Code (1930) Title 18, §§341–360 (Juries and Jury Commission) and Title 6, §366 (Peremptory challenges.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1966 Amendment

The revision of this subdivision brings it into line with the amendment of Rule 24(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. That rule previously allowed four alternate jurors, as contrasted with the two allowed in civil cases, and the amendments increase the number of a maximum of six in all cases. The Advisory Committee’s Note to amended Criminal Rule 24(c) points to experience demonstrating that four alternates may not be enough in some lengthy criminal trials; and the same may be said of civil trials. The Note adds:

“The words ‘or are found to be’ are added to the second sentence to make clear that an alternate juror may be called in the situation where it is first discovered during the trial that a juror was unable or disqualified to perform his duties at the time he was sworn.”

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1991 Amendment

Subdivision (b). The former provision for alternate jurors is stricken and the institution of the alternate juror abolished.

The former rule reflected the long-standing assumption that a jury would consist of exactly twelve members. It provided for additional jurors to be used as substitutes for jurors who are for any reason excused or disqualified from service after the commencement of the trial. Additional jurors were traditionally designated at the outset of the trial, and excused at the close of the evidence if they had not been promoted to full service on account of the elimination of one of the original jurors.

The use of alternate jurors has been a source of dissatisfaction with the jury system because of the burden it places on alternates who are required to listen to the evidence but denied the satisfaction of participating in its evaluation.

Subdivision (c). This provision makes it clear that the court may in appropriate circumstances excuse a juror during the jury deliberations without causing a mistrial. Sickness, family emergency or juror misconduct that might occasion a mistrial are examples of appropriate grounds for excusing a juror. It is not grounds for the dismissal of a juror that the juror refuses to join with fellow jurors in reaching a unanimous verdict.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 47 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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