Hobby v. United States
468 U.S. 339 (1984)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Hobby v. United States, 468 U.S. 339 (1984)

Hobby v. United States

No. 82-2140

Argued April 25, 1984

Decided July 2, 1984

468 U.S. 339

Syllabus

Petitioner, a white male, was indicted on federal fraud charges. Prior to trial, he moved for dismissal of the indictment on the ground that there was discrimination in the grand jury selection process in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. At a hearing on the motion to dismiss, petitioner introduced testimony of a statistical social science consultant showing that, for a 7-year period prior to petitioner's indictment, none of the 15 grand juries empaneled had had a Negro or female foreman, and that, of the 15 deputy foremen appointed, only 3 had been Negroes and 6 had been women. The District Court denied the motion to dismiss, and petitioner was convicted after a jury trial. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Assuming that discrimination entered into the selection of grand jury foremen, such discrimination does not warrant reversal of petitioner's conviction and dismissal of the indictment against him. Pp. 468 U. S. 342-350.

(a) Discrimination in the selection of grand jury foremen -- as distinguished from discrimination in the selection of the grand jury itself -- does not in any sense threaten the interests of a defendant protected by the Due Process Clause. Unlike the grand jury itself, the office of grand jury foreman is not a creature of the Constitution, but, instead, was originally instituted by statute for the convenience of the court. The responsibilities of a federal grand jury foreman are essentially clerical in nature -- administering oaths, maintaining records, and signing indictments. Given its ministerial nature, the role of foreman is not so significant to the administration of justice that discrimination in the selection of the foreman has any appreciable effect on the defendant's due process right to fundamental fairness. And so long as the composition of a federal grand jury as a whole serves the defendant's due process interest in assuring that the grand jury includes persons with a range of experiences and perspectives, discrimination in the selection of the foreman does not impinge such interest. Pp. 468 U. S. 342-346.

(b) An assumption that discrimination in the selection of a grand jury foreman requires the setting aside of a conviction is not warranted here, where a white male is challenging on due process grounds the selection of the foreman of a federal grand jury. Rose v. Mitchell,443 U. S. 545, distinguished. Pp. 468 U. S. 346-349.

Page 468 U. S. 340

(c) This Court declines petitioner's invitation to embark, pursuant to its supervisory power over the federal courts, upon a course of vacating convictions because of discrimination in the selection of grand jury foremen. Pp. 468 U. S. 349-350

702 F.2d 466, affirmed.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 468 U. S. 350. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 468 U. S. 362.

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