Jun 24

final-jur-e headline

“Time for Minnesota Courts to Make Diversity a Priority”

That is the title of an op-ed piece in the Post Bulletin (Rochester, Minnesota).  As a sequel to the newspaper’s in-depth investigation of the blanch demographic compositions of juries in the Land of a Thousand Lakes, the editorial board asserts:

In 1993, the Minnesota Supreme Court recommended 11 specific solutions to address this ongoing miscarriage of justice, including expanded jury pools, better juror pay and even providing free daycare, but as of 2019, most of those solutions had not been attempted, let alone brought to full fruition. And, while judges and jury commissioners technically have the power to intervene when a jury pool is obviously imbalanced, they almost never do so — in part because they lack clear guidance as to what they can do and when they can do it.

From a strictly legal perspective, this ongoing failure to act could (and probably should) have serious consequences. Racial disparity on a jury is a valid argument for appealing a conviction, and perhaps that's the very wakeup call our system needs. If Minnesota's appeals courts begin tossing convictions due to jury racial disparity and ordering expensive, time-consuming re-trials, perhaps we will get serious about seating juries that better reflect our state's increasing diversity.

But it shouldn't come to that. The Minnesota Supreme Court has laid out an improvement plan, and it's time to follow it. Pay jurors a fair wage for a day's work. Use every possible resource to get a true cross-section of the population into jury pools. Demystify the paperwork. Don't automatically disqualify potential jurors who are on probation or have a criminal history. Give judges greater authority to ensure some level of diversity in juries.

Argentine Jury Advocates Publish Compilation of Innovations

JusBaires Publishers has launched Trial by Jury and the New Generations: Honouring Dr. Gustavo Letner. The book is a compilation of papers about the challenges posed by the implementation of jury trials in Argentina. These papers were written by law school students and recently graduated lawyers who are part of the Instituto de Estudios Comparados en Ciencias Panales y Socialis (INECIP) research team, as well as young lawyers who work for the Argentine judiciary.  It was written in memory of Gustavo Letner in recognition of his work toward the implementation of jury trials in Argentina. Gustavo was a beloved judge and passionate advocate of jury trials.  Contact Natali Chizik for more information.

More Focus on Peremptory Strikes

Arizona Legislators Ponder New Peremptory Strike Allowances. In seeming contradiction to the earlier abolition of peremptory strikes by the Arizona Supreme Court, the Arizona House passed Bill 2413 on an emergency basis.  It specifies the number of peremptory strikes available to the parties in criminal cases (unless the parties agree to fewer strikes): 10 in death penalty cases and, in all other criminal trials, 6 per side in Superior Court, 2 per side in limited jurisdiction courts.  In multiple defendant trials, the defendants share the permitted maximum number.  In civil trials, a maximum of 4 peremptories are allowed.  The bill includes this provision: “This act is an emergency measure that is necessary to preserve the public peace, health or safety and is operative immediately as provided by law.”

Jury Selection Webinar on the History of Peremptory Challenges.  In keeping with the growing trend in various states to address suspected abuses in the use of peremptories, NCSC hosts a webinar on June 30 to discuss the history and impact of Batson and preemptory challenges on jury selection. The panel will provide specific actions and methods to identify implicit, institutional, and unconscious race and ethnic biases during jury selection.  Register here.

New York Legislation Would Require Study of Racial Disparities in Juries

The New York Senate and Assembly passed bills (Senate Bill 3960Assembly Bill 9707) requiring court administrators to complete a study (within one year) of the causes and effects of racial and ethnic disparities in jury selection pools and juror selection. The purposes of the study are to:

  • Identify statewide and regional ratios of the racial and ethnic makeup of jury selection pools, and racial and ethnic disparities in juror selection.
  • Review the extent to which racial and ethnic disparities in jury selection pools and juror selection affect the outcome of cases.
  • Identify ways to reduce or eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in jury selection pools and juror selection.

We Want to Know about Jury Innovators

NCSC is accepting nominations for the G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation, which recognizes states, local courts, or individuals that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, or practices. If you know a group or individual that meets this criteria, send in his/her/their nomination to Greg Mize. Be sure to complete and include this form with your nomination.

Correction – June 17, Jur-E Bulletin

Thanks to Jay Kadane at Carnegie Mellon University, we make a correction to the lead story in last week’s Jur-E Bulletin regarding the Washington State Supreme Court applying the Batson standards to police arrest tactics.  The published text stated the standard to be “If an ‘objective observer’ could see race as a factor, the juror challenge should not be allowed.”  The correct statement should be stated in the positive: “the juror challenge should be allowed.”