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

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Carter v. Jury Commission of Greene County

No. 30

Argued October 21, 1969

Decided January 19, 1970

396 U.S. 320


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.


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. 396 U. S. 329-330.

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

Page 396 U. S. 321

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. 396 U. S. 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. 396 U. S. 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, 311 U. S. 130-131. Pp. 396 U. S. 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. 396 U. S. 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. 396 U. S. 339-340.

298 F.Supp. 181, affirmed.

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