The California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee last month approved Assembly Bill 3070, the stated intent of which is “to put into place an effective procedure for eliminating the unfair exclusion of potential jurors based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or religious affiliation through the exercise of peremptory challenges.”  The Supreme Court has dealt with the issue of discriminatory jury selection as a matter of constitutional law under the Batson and Wheeler cases, most recently last week.

The court often divides on Batson/Wheeler issues, with Justice Goodwin Liu the most frequent voice criticizing the court’s jurisprudence as insufficient to root out prosecutorial prejudice in jury selection.  AB 3070 concurs with Justice Liu.  It would make legislative findings “that exclusion from jury service has disproportionately harmed African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color” and “that the existing procedure for determining whether a peremptory challenge was exercised on the basis of a legally impermissible reason has failed to eliminate that discrimination.”

In fact, a legislative report on the bill quotes at length a 2013 Liu separate opinion, including this observation that is certainly not out of date:  “Today, as when Batson was decided, it is a troubling reality, rooted in history and social context, that our black citizens are generally more skeptical about the fairness of our criminal justice system than other citizens.”


Tyler Pialet in the Daily Journal:  “Bill aims to curb some juror challenges

Supreme Court forms group to study Batson/Wheeler issues, a subject that has divided the Supreme Court

Further disagreement on Batson/Wheeler issues as the court affirms two death sentences

Supreme Court reverses death penalty, affirms convictions, and is split in rejecting a Batson challenge

Batson/Wheeler again divides the Supreme Court as it affirms a death sentence; two offer-of-proof opinions overruled

In death penalty affirmance, alleged racial discrimination in jury selection again divides Supreme Court

5-justice per curiam opinion affirms death penalty; Batson/Wheeler issue continues as a point of disagreement

Supreme Court reverses Court of Appeals to affirm Supreme Court, kinda

Race is the issue of the day

[June 15 update:  Maura Dolan reports in the Los Angeles Times about a UC Berkeley study — “California prosecutors routinely strike Black and Latino people from juries, report says.”]

[June 24 update:  Michele Hanisee, president of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, writes in the Daily Journal — “Flawed study by Berkeley Law clinic produces flawed conclusions.”]