Study Reveals Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection

Last month, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) released a study, “Illegal Racial Discrimination in Jury Selection: A Continuing Legacy,” which revealed a prevalence of racial bias in jury selection in the South.  The report stands as the most comprehensive study of racial discrimination in jury selection since 1986, when the US Supreme Court sought to limit the practice in the landmark case Batson v. Kentucky.

Racial discrimination in jury selection first became illegal when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1875.  Despite federal legislation, people of color continue to be excluded from jury service because of their race, especially in serious criminal trials and death penalty cases.

Evidence suggests the phenomenon persists through the use of peremptory challenges.  A peremptory challenge essentially provides attorneys the ability to exclude a certain number of potential jurors without explanation of their removal.

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Five Students Weigh in on the Daunting Challenge That Is 1L

If my Academic Support Program (ASP) orientation meeting was any indicator, new law students have a lot of questions, especially for rising second and third year law students, about what the first year will be like and what they can do to make it successful.

This summer, I have had the opportunity to work alongside five very bright, hardworking student interns and was able to ask them about their first year experience.  What is great about this group is that they come from a varied set of backgrounds, ages, sociopolitical views, and attend a variety of law schools—one at Franklin Pierce, one at University of Michigan, one at Harvard, and two at Chicago-Kent.  I asked that they share their answers to a number of questions that I recalled were asked in my ASP orientation session.  Those questions and a selection of their answers are below:

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A year ago, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation naming June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month.”  The proclamation effectively incorporated the transgendered community into President Bill Clinton’s 2000 proclamation, which named June “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month.”  In honor of the transgendered community, their legal rights, and the month of June, it seems appropriate to discuss gender identity discrimination and the infamous “trans panic defense.”

The overall struggle that transgender people face is similar to the struggle that gays and lesbians face, but for transgender people, the progressive change for their legal rights seems to be slower.  Currently, in 38 states it is still legal to discriminate based on gender identity.  Comparatively, 30 states have not yet developed laws against sexual orientation discrimination.  Wisconsin was the first state to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, and it did so in 1982.  However, as of yet, it has not created equal legislation regarding gender identity.

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