North Carolina Urged to Join California, Connecticut, and Washington in Study of Batson Violations
Jeffrey Robinson, a veteran trial attorney and faculty member of the National Criminal Defense College in Macon Georgia, writes in NC Policy Watch: “Two different statistical studies—one from the Illinois Law Review and another from Michigan State University College of Law—showed that qualified Black citizens in North Carolina were excluded from juries at about two and a half times the rate of white jurors. The lack of response from North Carolina courts has been deafening: In the thirty-four years since Batson, more than a hundred North Carolina defendants have raised claims of race discrimination against jurors of color.” Having served on the Washington State task force to find ways to better enforce the Baston doctrine, Mr. Robinson urges the North Carolina Supreme Court to follow the lead of Washington, Connecticut, and California to establish a similar task force.
Could Discussion of Race in Open Court Reduce Reliance on Stereotypes?
The ABA Journal features the results of an empirical study by Walter Gonçalves, Jr., an assistant federal public defender in Tucson, Arizona. Gonçalves shows that discussion of race during trials and pretrial hearings reduces reliance on stereotypes. He asserts that criminal defense lawyers can draw on psychological findings about race consciousness to reduce implicit bias by judges and juries. Although Gonçalves focuses part of his paper on combating bias against Latinos, he also outlines strategies that can address bias against any minority client.
Michigan County Reduces Term of Jury Service
The Huron Daily Tribune reports that Tuscola County this month switched from a four-to-six-week term of jury service to a one-week term. In addition, jurors will be paid by means of a debit card rather than a paper check.
California County Advertises to Enlist Civil Grand Jury Volunteers
At the beginning of this year, we reported that San Bernardino County, California was accepting applications from citizens who are willing to serve on civil grand juries. Now Contra Costa County is calling for volunteers to serve as civil grand jurors for the time period July 2020 through June 2021. Selected individuals must be available for approximately 30 hours per week for grand jury service and have reliable transportation to the county offices in Martinez. The civil grand juries are tasked with monitoring, reviewing, and reporting on the activities of city and county governments, special districts, and school districts.
President of American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) Publishes Defense of the Judiciary & the Jury System
ABOTA members have long been promoters and defenders of trial by jury. In the face of recent social media attacks on trial judges, ABOTA’s national president, Luther J. Battiste III, published a statement that includes this exhortation, “The rule of law, the role of the jury, and the independence of the judiciary are fundamental, guiding principles of our historic, constitutional system of the separation of powers so admired throughout the world. All play a vital role and must remain independent of political or personal influence. The judicial branch was intentionally created to be apolitical. Judges are governed by the rule of law—not partisanship or shifting political winds. Judges are precluded from defending themselves by speaking in public on matters in which they sit as judge. We, the American Board of Trial Advocates, can and do speak on their behalf when unfair criticism is leveled against them or pressure is applied in an attempt to affect their impartiality. We do so now.”