Juror orientation video updated to address unconscious bias


Ingham County Probate Court Judge Shauna Dunnings narrates the new section on unconscious bias in the Michigan Supreme Court’s updated Jury Orientation Video.

Photo courtesy of Michigan Supreme Court

The education arm of the Michigan Supreme Court, the Michigan Judicial Institute (MJI), has updated its Jury Orientation Video with a new section on unconscious bias. With narration by Ingham County Probate Court Judge Shauna Dunnings, MJI has supplemented this important resource to help educate everyone who interacts with the courts, including court staff, prospective jurors, attorneys, and the general public. The video is also available in closed caption format.

Trial court administrators statewide routinely use the video to assist prospective jurors in preparing for service. For example, the video introduces them to the courtroom and outlines trial procedures such as voir dire, closing arguments, and deliberation. MJI coordinated extensive involvement in the video updates from multiple stakeholders, including several State Bar of Michigan committees and Judge Dunnings, who is a co-facilitator of the MSC Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee with Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Stephens, Saginaw County Circuit Court Judge André Borrello, and Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Welch. Funding was provided by Michigan’s Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA).

“Our mission is to make Michigan’s judiciary a national model of fairness, accessibility, and engagement. Addressing the issue of unconscious bias in this video is a key step toward making the entire jury trial process more representative and inclusive of everyone involved, which also helps to build public confidence in our branch,” said Justice Welch.

Unconscious bias is an automatic preference that every human uses to make daily decisions. They’re not always based on fact and can be influenced by culture, past experiences, and media. Such biases often affect how people act towards someone either positively or negatively. Unconscious biases can affect an individual’s thoughts about what they see and hear, whom they believe and disbelieve, and how to make critical decisions. The video reminds jurors that they must not be biased in favor or against any party, witness, or lawyer for any reason. Each side in a trial is entitled to jurors who keep open minds until the time comes to decide the case.

Examples of unconscious bias include any bias because of gender; race; religion; ethnicity; sexual orientation; age; national origin; income level; socioeconomic status; and any other factor irrelevant to the rights of the parties.

To view the video, visit https://mjieducation.mi.gov/videos/jury-orientation.

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