Jefferson and Washington monuments

David Baugh on Voir Dire

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Law Practice

David P. Baugh was one of the speakers at a Virginia Trial Lawyers Association CLE I attended yesterday.  Baugh is perhaps best known for defending the free speech of a Ku Klux Klan member in a trial that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Virginia v. Black, and, surprise, surprise, he turns out to be a dynamic and very funny speaker.  Covering the presumption of innocence, racial bias, prejudice toward homosexuals and non-English speakers, prior criminal record, and many other areas relating to voir dire, Baugh also included a number of one-liners.  Among the many gems he threw out there were the following:

  • “Virginia has the most liberal and progressive voir dire statute in the United States.”
  • “Having a judge conduct voir dire for you is akin to having the judge conduct cross examination for you.”
  • “If the prosecution has 30 eyewitnesses to a crime, they will be smart to only use one.  Nobody sees the same thing the same way, and the second witness will only step on the first.
  • “Virginia is for lovers and for lethal injection.”
  • “If being a judge is like watching other people have sex, being an appellate judge is like listening to other people talking about sex.”
  • “You need to have ovarian fortitude – huge ovaries — to take on judges.”
  • “In the old days they hired gun-fighters.  Now they hire us.”
  • “A bench trial is like a slow guilty plea.  Always take a jury.”
  • “If you get a great judge, take a jury.  That way you will have two lines of defense.”
  • “Americans are unique in not having a sense of justice.  What they do have is a sense of injustice.  If they feel rules are being broken, they will punish the side breaking the rules.”
  • “Every lawyer I know who hates the law doesn’t hate the practice of law.  It is the business of law that they hate.”