Supreme Court Rulings on Jury Service for Blacks and Women

Article excerpt

* Sometimes the issue regarding jury service isn't a person's duty to serve, but rather the right to serve. The United States Supreme Court has progressively struck down laws and practices that prohibited blacks and women from serving as jurors.

In the first cases, the high court invalidated statutes that barred minorities and women from jury duty. More recently, the justices have, in a series of decisions beginning with Batson v. Kentucky in 1986, outlawed as unconstitutional lawyers' use of "peremptory challenges" to exclude black people from juries.

This term, the Supreme Court will decide whether gender bias in the exercise of peremptory challenges also violates the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

In the paternity trial of an Alabama man to determine his child-support obligations, the state, suing on behalf of the child's mother, bumped all men from the jury. The all-female jury ruled for the mother. In his appeal to the high court, called J.E.B. v. T.B., the putative father challenged the state's discriminatory conduct. The case will be argued in the Supreme Court Nov. 2. …