J. E. B. v. Alabama ex rel. T. B.
511 U.S. 127 (1994)

Annotate this Case

OCTOBER TERM, 1993

Syllabus

J. E. B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T. B.

CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF CIVIL APPEALS OF ALABAMA No. 92-1239. Argued November 2, 1993-Decided April 19, 1994

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-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. 131-146.

606 So. 2d 156, 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, post, p. 146. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 151. REHNQUIST, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 154. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., and THOMAS, J., joined, post, p. 156.


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John F. Porter III argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

Michael R. Dreeben argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Days, Acting Assistant Attorneys General Keeney and Turner, and Deputy Solicitor General Bryson.

Lois N. Brasfield, Assistant Attorney General of Alabama, argued the cause for respondent. With her on the briefs was William F. Prendergast, Assistant Attorney General.*

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court. In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U. S. 79 (1986), this Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amend-

ment 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, quoting Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U. S. 303, 305 (1880), the "defendant does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected pursuant to nondiscriminatory criteria," 476 U. S., at 85-86. 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 (1991); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U. S. 614 (1991); Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U. S. 42 (1992).

Although premised on equal protection principles that apply equally to gender discrimination, all our recent cases

*David H. Coburn, Stephanie A. Philips, and Marcia Greenberger filed a brief for the National Women's Law Center et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.


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