It’s unconstitutional for an attorney to racially discriminate in peremptorily challenging prospective jurors.  That’s undisputed.  What has caused division on an otherwise usually unanimous Supreme Court is how to analyze the issue and whether unlawful discrimination has occurred in particular cases.  Justice Goodwin Liu has been the most vocal in advocating for a more robust policing of alleged discriminatory jury selection processes.  Today, the court announced it is forming a group to study Batson/Wheeler issues, named after the U.S. and California Supreme Court decisions prohibiting that biased practice.

The court said that the new California Jury Selection Work Group will “undertake a thoughtful, inclusive study of how Batson/Wheeler operates in practice in California and whether modifications or additional measures are warranted to address impermissible discrimination against cognizable groups in jury selection.”  Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye “will appoint a diverse work group of stakeholders from across the state — including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, and other practitioners in criminal and civil litigation — to study these questions through an inclusive process with opportunities for public input and participation.”

[Update:  Bob Egelko in the San Francisco Chronicle — “Calif. Supreme Court wants panel to tackle racial discrimination in jury selection.”]


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

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

Race is the issue of the day