Race and jury selection …

A while back, I posted on a Batson case in the criminal context.  Today, the Supreme Court of Texas handed down a Batson decision in the civil context — a case of alleged racial discrimination in the workplace.

Today, the Supreme Court of Texas held that the employer’s attorney struck two potential jurors on account of their race.  Wow.  The jury that was seated didn’t buy the employee’s claims of racial discrimination.  They entered a verdict for the employer.  Today, though, the Supreme Court of Texas set aside that verdict, and sent the case back for a new trial.  The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Jefferson.

The last time the Supreme Court of Texas looked at Batson issues was more than ten years ago. since then the Supreme Court of the United States of America has examined the issue.  See the NY Times article on the case here.

Batson is a three step process.  First, there’s a charge that a potential juror was excluded on account of race.  Second comes an assertion of race neutral reason for the exclusion.  Third is an examination of whether that race neutral reason is merely a hollow pretext.  With today’s decision, step three just got a whole lot more interesting, and important.

The concurring opinion says that Batson isn’t enough.  In their view, Batson is only a partial remedy for the abuses that come from giving parties the ability to exclude potential jurors. The full remedy? Do away with preemptory challenges.

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