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Alverio v. Sam’s Warehouse Club, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff claims she was sexually harassed when she worked for Defendant. At jury selection, Defendant used its peremptory challenges to strike three jurors, all which were female. Plaintiff contends Defendant struck the jurors because they were female. The judge accepted counsel’s reasons. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury rendered a verdict for Defendant. Plaintiff appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Under a Batson challenge, when a striking party provides gender-neutral reasons for a peremptory challenge, the gender discrimination Batson challenge must fail.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff, Carmen Alverio, alleges she was sexually harassed by her previous manager when she worked for Sam’s Warehouse Club, Inc., Defendant. Plaintiff brought suit. The jury venire was composed of eleven men and three women. Defendant used its peremptory challenges to strike all three women. Plaintiff alleged Defendant improperly struck the three women, based on their gender, in violation of Batson. Defendant’s counsel stated he struck one woman because she was unemployed, one because she was previously a plaintiff in a litigation, and one because she worked at an insurance company, which may have worked with his law firm. Subsequently, Plaintiff used its peremptory challenges to strike the three most educated men from the venire. The judge accepted Defendant’s counsel’s reasons, and the trial began. The jury rendered a verdict for the Defendant. Defendant moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial, and the court denied the motion. Plaintiff appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether gender discrimination Batson challenge will fail when a striking party provides gender-neutral reasons for a peremptory challenge

    Held.

    Yes, gender discrimination Batson challenge will fail when a striking party provides gender-neutral reasons for a peremptory challenge

    Discussion.

    Under a Batson challenge, when a striking party provides gender-neutral reasons for a peremptory challenge, the gender discrimination Batson challenge must fail.  The Batson challenge was extended to peremptory challenges that intentionally discriminate on gender in both civil and criminal cases. J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel. T.B., 511 U.S. 127 (1994). A proper Batson contains three steps. First, party challenging the strike must make a prima facie showing that the striking party was discriminating when it used its peremptory challenges. Second, the party striking the juror must “articulate a gender-neutral reason for the challenge.” Third, the court must make a finding of whether the party challenging the strike has met its burden of persuasion. In this case, Plaintiff properly established a prima facie case that Defendant’s peremptory challenges were discriminatory in nature. Second, whether Defendant’s gender-neutral reason was sufficient and the trial court’s finding that it was cannot be overturned unless it is clearly erroneous. Thus, Plaintiff, the striking party, must establish that the Defendant’s reasons were “completely outlandish” or untrue. Defendant’s counsel provided plausible reasons for striking all three jurors. Further, courts previously have upheld peremptory challenges based on a prospective jurors’ employment status, type of profession, lack of educational backgrounds, and inexperience. Additionally, the court finds Plaintiff’s contentions that Defendant’s allegation that the women lacked business experience, based on stereotypes, to be unpersuasive. Therefore, the court’s finding that Defendant’s reasons were neutral was not clearly erroneous. Lastly, Plaintiff’s statement, female jurors are required to be in a jury when handling sexual harassment cases, was improper and discriminatory itself. The lower court’s ruling is affirmed.


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