396 U.S. 320 (1970), 30, Carter v. Jury Commission of Greene County

Docket Nº:No. 30
Citation:396 U.S. 320, 90 S.Ct. 518, 24 L.Ed.2d 549
Party Name:Carter v. Jury Commission of Greene County
Case Date:January 19, 1970
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 320

396 U.S. 320 (1970)

90 S.Ct. 518, 24 L.Ed.2d 549

Carter

v.

Jury Commission of Greene County

No. 30

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 19, 1970

Argued October 21, 1969

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA

Syllabus

Appellants, Negro citizens of Greene County, Alabama, who alleged that they were qualified to serve as jurors and desired to serve, but had never been summoned, brought this action seeking (1) a declaration that qualified Negroes were systematically excluded from Greene County grand and petit juries, that the Alabama jury selection statutes were unconstitutional on their face and as applied, and that the jury commission was a deliberately segregated agency; (2) a permanent injunction forbidding the systematic exclusion of Negroes and requiring that all eligible Negroes be placed on the jury roll, and (3) an order vacating the jury commissioners' appointments and compelling the Governor to select new members without racial discrimination. The three-judge District Court found that, although the 1960 census showed that three-fourths of the county's population were Negroes, the largest number of Negroes on the jury list from 1961 to 1963 was about 7% of the total. Following a 1964 declaratory judgment decree and a 1967 statutory amendment adding women to the list, the percentage of Negroes on the jury roll increased to 32%, but the 1967 county population was about 65% Negro. The jury commissioners appointed by the Governor for the past 12 years were white. The District Court found an "invalid exclusion of Negroes on a racially discriminatory basis," and directed the jury commissioners and their clerk "to take prompt action to compile a jury list . . . in accordance with the laws of Alabama and . . . constitutional principles," and to submit a compliance report. The court declined to enjoin the enforcement of the challenged statutes or to direct the Governor to appoint Negroes to the jury commission, and it is from these rulings that appellants took a direct appeal.

Held:

1. There is no jurisdictional or procedural bar to an attack upon systematic jury discrimination by way of a civil suit such as this. Pp. 329-330.

2. The provision of the Alabama Code (Title 30, § 21) requiring the jury commissioners to select for jury service those persons

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who are

generally reputed to be honest and intelligent. . . and . . . esteemed in the community for their integrity, good character and sound judgment. . .

is not unconstitutional on its face. Pp. 331-337.

(a) The Constitution does not forbid the States to establish relevant qualifications for jurors, and most States have enacted similar juror requirements. Pp. 332-335.

(b) Although here the jury commissioners and their clerk abused the statutory discretion in the preparation of the jury roll, that does not mean that § 21 is necessarily and under all circumstances invalid. The statute was "capable of being carried out with no racial discrimination whatsoever." Smith v. Texas, 311 U.S. 128, 130-131. Pp. 334-337.

3. Apart from the problems involved in a federal court's ordering a Governor to exercise his discretion in a specific way, it cannot be said on the record here that the absence of Negroes from the jury commission amounted, in itself, to a prima facie showing of discriminatory exclusion. Nor can appellants' present contention that the absence of Negroes from the commission compelled the District Court to order the appointment of Negro commissioners be upheld, as appellants are no more entitled to proportional representation by race on the jury commission than on any particular grand or petit jury. Pp. 337-339.

4. The District Court must consider whether the new jury roll prepared pursuant to its order complies therewith and whether other and further relief is appropriate. Pp. 339-340.

298 F.Supp. 181, affirmed.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The appellants, Negro citizens of Greene County, Alabama, commenced this class action against officials charged with the administration of the State's jury

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selection laws: the county jury commissioners and their clerk, the local circuit court judge, and the Governor of Alabama. The complaint alleged that the appellants were fully qualified to serve as jurors and desired to serve, but had never been summoned for jury service. It charged that the appellees had effected a discriminatory exclusion of Negroes from grand and petit juries in Greene County -- the Governor in his selection of the county jury commission, and the commissioners and judge in their arbitrary exclusion of Negroes. The complaint sought (1) a declaration that qualified Negroes were systematically excluded from Greene County grand and petit juries, that the Alabama statutes governing jury selection were unconstitutional on their face and as applied, and that the jury commission was a deliberately segregated governmental agency; (2) a permanent injunction forbidding the systematic exclusion of Negroes from Greene County juries pursuant to the challenged statutes and requiring that all eligible Negroes be placed on the jury roll, and (3) an order vacating the appointments of the jury commissioners and compelling the Governor to select new members without racial discrimination.

Alabama's jury selection procedure is governed by statute. Ala.Code, Tit. 30, § 1 et seq. (1958 and Supp. 1967). The Governor appoints a three-member jury commission for each county. §§ [90 S.Ct. 520] 8-10. The commission employs a clerk, § 15, who is charged with the duty of obtaining the name of every citizen of the county over 21 and under 65 years of age, together with his occupation and places of residence and business. § 18. The clerk must

can the registration lists, the lists returned to the tax assessor, any city directories, telephone directories and any and every other source of information from which he may obtain information. . . .

§ 2. He must also "visit every precinct at least once a year

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to enable the jury commission to properly perform the duties required of it. . . ." Ibid.1 Once the clerk submits his list of names, the commission is under a duty to prepare a jury roll and jury box containing the names of all qualified, nonexempt citizens in the county, §§ 20, 24, who are

generally reputed to be honest and intelligent and are esteemed in the community for their integrity, good character and sound judgment. . . .

§ 21.2

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A three-judge District Court, convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284, conducted an extensive evidentiary hearing on the appellants' complaint. The record fully supports the trial court's conclusion, set out in its detailed opinion, that the jury selection process as it actually operated in Greene County at the outset of this litigation departed from the statutory mandate in several respects:

The clerk does not obtain the names of all potentially eligible jurors as provided by § 18, in fact, was not aware that the statute directed that this be done, and knew of no way in which he could do it. The starting point each year is last year's roll. Everyone thereon is considered to be qualified, and remains on the roll unless he dies or moves away (or, presumably, is convicted of a felony). New names are added to the old roll. Almost all of the work of the commission is devoted to securing names of persons suggested for consideration as new jurors. The clerk performs some duties directed toward securing such names. This is a part-time task, done without compensation, in spare time available from performance of her duties [90 S.Ct. 521] as clerk of the Circuit Court. She uses voter lists, but not the tax assessor's lists. Telephone directories for some of the communities are referred to, city directories not at all, since Greene County is largely rural.

The clerk goes into each of the eleven beats or precincts annually, usually one time. Her trips out into the county for this purpose never consume a full day. At various places in the county, she talks with persons she knows and secures suggested names. She is acquainted with a good many Negroes, but very few "out in the county." She does not know the reputation of most of the Negroes in the county. Because of her duties as clerk of the Circuit Court,

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the names and reputations of Negroes most familiar to her are those who have been convicted of crime or have been "in trouble." She does not know any Negro ministers, does not seek names from any Negro or white churches or fraternal organizations. She obtains some names from the county's Negro deputy sheriff.

The commission members also secure some names, but on a basis no more regular or formalized than the efforts of the clerk. The commissioners "ask around," each usually in the area of the county where he resides, and secure a few names, chiefly from white persons. Some of the names are obtained from public officials, substantially all of whom are white.

One commissioner testified that he asked for names and that, if people didn't give him names he could not submit them. He accepts pay for one day's work each year, stating that he does not have a lot of time to put on jury commission work. . . . He takes the word of those who recommend people, checks no further and sees no need to check further, considering that he is to rely on the judgment of others. He makes no inquiry or determination whether persons suggested can read or write. . . . Neither commissioners nor clerk have any social contacts with Negroes or belong to any of the same organizations.

Through its yearly meeting in August, 1966, the jury commission met once each year, usually for one day, sometimes for two, to prepare a new roll. New names presented by clerk and commissioners, and some sent in by letter, were considered. The clerk checked them...

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