J.E.B v. Alabama ex rel T.B.

Decision Date19 April 1994
Docket Number921988,921239
Citation128 L.Ed.2d 89,511 U.S. 127,114 S.Ct. 1419
PartiesJ.E.B., Petitioner v. ALABAMA ex rel. T.B
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

Syllabus *

At petitioner's paternity and child support trial, respondent State used 9 of its 10 peremptory challenges to remove male jurors. The court empaneled an all-female jury after rejecting petitioner's claim that the logic and reasoning of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69—in which this Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits peremptory strikes based solely on race—extend to forbid gender-based peremptory challenges. The jury found petitioner to be the father of the child in question and the trial court ordered him to pay child support. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed.

Held: The Equal Protection Clause prohibits discrimination in jury selection on the basis of gender, or on the assumption that an individual will be biased in a particular case solely because that person happens to be a woman or a man. Respondent's gender-based peremptory challenges cannot survive the heightened equal protection scrutiny that this Court affords distinctions based on gender. Respondent's rationale—that its decision to strike virtually all males in this case may reasonably have been based on the perception, supported by history, that men otherwise totally qualified to serve as jurors might be more sympathetic and receptive to the arguments of a man charged in a paternity action, while women equally qualified might be more sympathetic and receptive to the arguments of the child's mother—is virtually unsupported and is based on the very stereotypes the law condemns. The conclusion that litigants may not strike potential jurors solely on the basis of gender does not imply the elimination of all peremptory challenges. So long as gender does not serve as a proxy for bias, unacceptable jurors may still be removed, including those who are members of a group or class that is normally subject to "rational basis" review and those who exhibit characteristics that are disproportionately associated with one gender. Pp. ____.

606 A.2d 156 (D.C.App.1992), reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEVENS, O'CONNOR, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. REHNQUIST, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and THOMAS, J., joined.

John F. Porter, III, Scottsboro, AL, for petitioner.

Michael R. Dreeben, Washington, DC, for the U.S. as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court.

Lois B. Brasfield, Montgomery, AL, for respondent.

Justice BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), this Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs the exercise of peremptory challenges by a prosecutor in a criminal trial. The Court explained that although a defendant has "no right to a 'petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race," ' id., at 85, 106 S.Ct., at 1717, quoting Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 305, 25 L.Ed. 664 (1880), the "defendant does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected pursuant to nondiscriminatory criteria." Id., 476 U.S., at 85-86, 106 S.Ct., at 1717. Since Batson, we have reaffirmed repeatedly our commitment to jury selection procedures that are fair and nondiscriminatory. We have recognized that whether the trial is criminal or civil, potential jurors, as well as litigants, have an equal protection right to jury selection procedures that are free from state-sponsored group stereotypes rooted in, and reflective of, historical prejudice. See Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 111 S.Ct. 1364, 113 L.Ed.2d 411 (1991); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614, 111 S.Ct. 2077, 114 L.Ed.2d 660 (1991); Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 2348, 120 L.Ed.2d 33 (1992).

Although premised on equal protection principles that apply equally to gender discrimination, all our recent cases defining the scope of Batson involved alleged racial discrimination in the exercise of peremptory challenges. Today we are faced with the question whether the Equal Protection Clause forbids intentional discrimination on the basis of gender, just as it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. We hold that gender, like race, is an unconstitutional proxy for juror competence and impartiality.

I

On behalf of relator T.B., the mother of a minor child, respondent State of Alabama filed a complaint for paternity and child support against petitioner J.E.B. in the District Court of Jackson County, Alabama. On October 21, 1991, the matter was called for trial and jury selection began. The trial court assembled a panel of 36 potential jurors, 12 males and 24 females. After the court excused three jurors for cause, only 10 of the remaining 33 jurors were male. The State then used 9 of its 10 peremptory strikes to remove male jurors; petitioner used all but one of his strikes to remove female jurors. As a result, all the selected jurors were female.

Before the jury was empaneled, petitioner objected to the State's peremptory challenges on the ground that they were exercised against male jurors solely on the basis of gender, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. App. 22. Petitioner argued that the logic and reasoning of Batson v. Kentucky, which prohibits peremptory strikes solely on the basis of race, similarly forbids intentional discrimination on the basis of gender. The court rejected petitioner's claim and empaneled the all-female jury. App. 23. The jury found petitioner to be the father of the child and the court entered an order directing him to pay child support. On post-judgment motion, the court reaffirmed its ruling that Batson does not extend to gender-based peremptory challenges. App. 33. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, 606 A.2d 156 (1992), relying on Alabama precedent, see, e.g., Murphy v. State, 596 So.2d 42 (Ala.Crim.App.1991), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 86, 121 L.Ed.2d 49 (1992), and Ex parte Murphy, 596 So.2d 45 (Ala.1992). The Supreme Court of Alabama denied certiorari, No. 1911717 (Ala. Oct. 23, 1992).

We granted certiorari, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 2330, 124 L.Ed.2d 242 (1993), to resolve a question that has created a conflict of authority—whether the Equal Protection Clause forbids peremptory challenges on the basis of gender as well as on the basis of race.1 Today we reaffirm what, by now, should be axiomatic: Intentional discrimination on the basis of gender by state actors violates the Equal Protection Clause, particularly where, as here, the discrimination serves to ratify and perpetuate invidious, archaic, and overbroad stereotypes about the relative abilities of men and women.

II

Discrimination on the basis of gender in the exercise of peremptory challenges is a relatively recent phenomenon. Gender-based peremptory strikes were hardly practicable for most of our country's existence, since, until the 19th century, women were completely excluded from jury service.2 So well-entrenched was this exclusion of women that in 1880 this Court, while finding that the exclusion of African-American men from juries violated the Fourteenth Amendment, expressed no doubt that a State "may confine the selection [of jurors] to males." Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 310, 25 L.Ed. 664; see also Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261, 289-290, 67 S.Ct. 1613, 1628-1629, 91 L.Ed. 2043 (1947).

Many States continued to exclude women from jury service well into the present century, despite the fact that women attained suffrage upon ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920.3 States that did permit women to serve on juries often erected other barriers, such as registration requirements and automatic exemptions, designed to deter women from exercising their right to jury service. See, e.g., Fay v. New York, 332 U.S., at 289, 67 S.Ct., at 1628 ("[I]n 15 of the 28 states which permitted women to serve [on juries in 1942], they might claim exemption because of their sex"); Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57, 82 S.Ct. 159, 7 L.Ed.2d 118 (1961) (upholding affirmative registration statute that exempted women from mandatory jury service).

The prohibition of women on juries was derived from the English common law which, according to Blackstone, rightfully excluded women from juries under "the doctrine of propter defectum sexus, literally, the 'defect of sex.' " United States v. De Gross, 960 F.2d 1433, 1438 (CA9 1992) (en banc), quoting 2 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *362.4 In this country, supporters of the exclusion of women from juries tended to couch their objections in terms of the ostensible need to protect women from the ugliness and depravity of trials. Women were thought to be too fragile and virginal to withstand the polluted courtroom atmosphere. See Bailey v. State, 215 Ark. 53, 61, 219 S.W.2d 424, 428 (1949) ("Criminal court trials often involve testimony of the foulest kind, and they sometimes require consideration of indecent conduct, the use of filthy and loathsome words, references to intimate sex relationships, and other elements that would prove humiliating, embarrassing and degrading to a lady"); In re Goodell, 39 Wis. 232, 245-246 (1875) (endorsing statutory ineligibility of women for admission to the bar because "[r]everence for all womanhood would suffer in the public spectacle of women . . . so engaged"). Bradwell v. State, 16 Wall. 130, 141, 21 L.Ed. 442 (1872) (concurring opinion) ("[T]he civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or...

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