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Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co

Citation. 328 U.S. 217 (1946)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff Thiel attempts to strike the jury but the court denies the motion. The Supreme Court then grants certiorari to determine if Plaintiff’s motion was properly denied.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A court may not systematically and automatically exclude daily wage earners from jury selection.


Plaintiff Thiel jumped out of a moving train operated by Defendant Southern Pacific. Plaintiff Theil sued Defendant Southern Pacific alleging that he was not mentally competent to board the train and that Southern Pacific should have guarded him while he was onboard. Plaintiff Thiel requested a jury trial. Once the jury was chosen Plaintiff moved to strike the entire jury because he alleged they would not be able to be impartial because they were sympathetic to business owners or affiliated with Defendant Southern Pacific. The court denied the motion. Theil renewed his motion and attempted to withdraw his jury demand, but the court again denied the motion. The jury found in favor of Defendant Southern Pacific. Plaintiff Theil filed a motion to set aside the verdict or to be granted a new trial, both of which were denied. The court of appeals affirmed and the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari on the issue of whether Plaintiff Thiel’s motion to strike the jury was properly denied.


May a court systematically and automatically exclude daily wage earners from jury selection?


No, a court may not systematically and automatically exclude daily wage earners from jury selection. The holding below is reversed.


1. The court cannot discriminate based on a potential jurors economic statute when empanelling a jury because economic status does not reveal whether a person may competently serve on a jury.
2. The clerk and jury commissioner in this case testified that they excluded certain classes of low-paying jobs and daily wage earners when drawing a pool of people for jury service.
3. As a result, juries consisted entirely of weekly or monthly wage earners and their wives.
4. A court is not allowed to select a jury in this manner.
5. The jury in this case was not reflective of the community, and its selection was based on economic bias.
6.Therefore, the holding below is reversed.

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