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Carter v. Jury Commission

Brief Fact Summary. A class action suit alleged that the state of Alabama was being used to prevent African-Americans from sitting on juries.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. The Court’s duty “to protect the federal constitutional rights of all does not mean we must or should impose on states our conception of the proper source of jury lists, so long as the source reasonably reflects a cross-section of the population suitable in character and intelligence for that civic duty.”

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Whether jury service be deemed a right, a privilege, or a duty, the State may no more extend it to some of its citizens and deny it to others on racial grounds than it may invidiously discriminate in the offering and withholding of the elective franchise.

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Facts. Under Alabama law, the governor appointed a jury commission for each county. In Greene County, substantial evidence suggested that the commission limited the number of African-Americans allowed to serve on juries.

Issue. Whether Section: 21 of Alabama jury law is unconstitutional on its face.

Held. No. The Supreme Court of the United States was unwilling to declare the statute so, “[d]espite the overwhelming proof the appellants have adduced in support of their claim that the jury clerk and commissioners have abused the discretion that Alabama law confers on them in the preparation of the jury roll.” The statute contained no reference to race.

Discussion. “The federal courts are not incompetent to fashion detailed and stringent injunctive relief that will remedy any discriminatory application of the statute at the hands of the officials empowered to administer it.”


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