The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs the exercise of peremptory challenges by a prosecutor in a criminal trial. Although a defendant has no right to a petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race, a defendant does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected pursuant to nondiscriminatory criteria. Since Batson, the United States Supreme Court has reaffirmed repeatedly its commitment to jury selection procedures that are fair and nondiscriminatory. Whether a 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.
Respondent filed a complaint for paternity against petitioner. Respondent used most of its peremptory challenges to remove male jurors. As a result, women comprised the entire jury. Petitioner claimed respondent's use of peremptory challenges to exclude male jurors on the basis of their gender violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellate court upheld the trial court's ruling that the Fourteenth Amendment did not extend to gender-based peremptory challenges. On certiorari, the Court reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the court of appeals for further proceedings.
Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibit intentional discrimination in jury selection based on gender?
In reversing the appellate court's decision, the Court held the Fourteenth Amendment prohibited discrimination in jury selection on the basis of gender regardless of whether the challenge involved a male or female. Respondent cited studies that concluded women and men had varying attitudes as support for its gender-based peremptory challenges. The Court held that respondent's reasoning did not provide an exceedingly persuasive justification for gender-based discrimination. As a result, respondent's exercise of peremptory challenges to exclude male jurors violated the Equal Protection Clause.