J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B.(1994)

 

No. 92-1239

Argued: November 2, 1993Decided: April 19, 1994

At petitioner’s paternity and child support trial, respondent State used 9 of its 10 peremptory challenges to remove male jurors. The court empaneled an all-female jury after rejecting petitioner’s claim that the logic and reasoning of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 – in which this Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits peremptory strikes based solely on race – extend to forbid gender-based peremptory challenges. The jury found petitioner to be the father of the child in question and the trial court ordered him to pay child support. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed.

Held:

The Equal Protection Clause prohibits discrimination in jury selection on the basis of gender, or on the assumption that an individual will be biased in a particular case solely because that person happens to be a woman or a man. Respondent’s gender-based peremptory challenges cannot survive the heightened equal protection scrutiny that this Court affords distinctions based on gender. Respondent’s rationale – that its decision to strike virtually all males in this case may reasonably have been based on the perception, supported by history, that men otherwise totally qualified to serve as jurors might be more sympathetic and receptive to the arguments of a man charged in a paternity action, while women equally qualified might be more sympathetic and receptive to the arguments of the child’s mother – is virtually unsupported and is based on the very stereotypes the law condemns. The conclusion that litigants may not strike potential jurors solely on the basis of gender does not imply the elimination of all peremptory challenges. So long as gender does not serve as a proxy for bias, unacceptable jurors may still be removed, including those who are members of a group or class that is normally subject to Page II “rational basis” review and those who exhibit characteristics that are disproportionately associated with one gender. Pp. 4-20.

606 So.2d 156, reversed and remanded.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Stevens, O’CONNOR, SOUTER, and GINSBURG, JJ., joined. O’CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion. KENNEDY, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. REHNQUIST, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and THOMAS, J., joined. [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 1]  

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), this Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs the exercise of peremptory challenges by a prosecutor in a criminal trial. The Court explained that, although a defendant has “no right to a `petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of his own race,'” id., at 85, quoting Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 305 (1880), the “defendant does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected pursuant to nondiscriminatory criteria.” Id., at 85-86. Since Batson, we have reaffirmed repeatedly our commitment to jury selection procedures that are fair and nondiscriminatory. We have recognized that, whether the trial is criminal or civil, potential jurors, as well as litigants, have an equal protection right to jury selection procedures that are free from state-sponsored group stereotypes rooted in, and reflective of, historical prejudice. See Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400 (1991); Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991); Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. ___ (1992).

Although premised on equal protection principles that apply equally to gender discrimination, all our recent cases defining the scope of Batson involved alleged racial discrimination in the exercise of peremptory challenges. Today we are faced with the question whether the Equal [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 2]   Protection Clause forbids intentional discrimination on the basis of gender, just as it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. We hold that gender, like race, is an unconstitutional proxy for juror competence and impartiality.

I

On behalf of relator T.B., the mother of a minor child, respondent State of Alabama filed a complaint for paternity and child support against petitioner J.E.B. in the District Court of Jackson County, Alabama. On October 21, 1991, the matter was called for trial and jury selection began. The trial court assembled a panel of 36 potential jurors, 12 males and 24 females. After the court excused three jurors for cause, only 10 of the remaining 33 jurors were male. The State then used 9 of its 10 peremptory strikes to remove male jurors; petitioner used all but one of his strikes to remove female jurors. As a result, all the selected jurors were female.

Before the jury was empaneled, petitioner objected to the State’s peremptory challenges on the ground that they were exercised against male jurors solely on the basis of gender, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. App. 22. Petitioner argued that the logic and reasoning of Batson v. Kentucky, which prohibits peremptory strikes solely on the basis of race, similarly forbids intentional discrimination on the basis of gender. The court rejected petitioner’s claim and empaneled the all-female jury. App. 23. The jury found petitioner to be the father of the child and the court entered an order directing him to pay child support. On post-judgment motion, the court reaffirmed its ruling that Batson does not extend to gender-based peremptory challenges. App. 33. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, 606 So.2d 156 (1992), relying on Alabama precedent, see, e.g., Murphy v. State, 596 So.2d 42 (Ala.Crim.App. 1991), cert. [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 3]   denied, ___ U.S. ___ (1992), and Ex parte Murphy, 596 So.2d 45 (Ala. 1992). The Supreme Court of Alabama denied certiorari, No. 1911717 (Ala. Oct. 23, 1992).

We granted certiorari, ___ U.S. ___ (1993), to resolve a question that has created a conflict of authority – whether the Equal Protection Clause forbids peremptory challenges on the basis of gender as well as on the basis of race. Today we reaffirm what, by now, should be axiomatic: intentional discrimination on the [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 4]   basis of gender by state actors violates the Equal Protection Clause, particularly where, as here, the discrimination serves to ratify and perpetuate invidious, archaic, and overbroad stereotypes about the relative abilities of men and women.

II

Discrimination on the basis of gender in the exercise of peremptory challenges is a relatively recent phenomenon. Gender-based peremptory strikes were hardly practicable for most of our country’s existence, since, until the 19th century, women were completely excluded from jury service. So well-entrenched was this exclusion of women that, in 1880, this Court, while finding that the exclusion of African-American men from juries violated the Fourteenth Amendment, expressed no doubt that a State “may confine the selection [of jurors] to males.” Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 310; see also Fay v. New York, 332 U.S. 261, 289 -290 (1947).

Many States continued to exclude women from jury service well into the present century, despite the fact that women attained suffrage upon ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. States that did [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 5]   permit women to serve on juries often erected other barriers, such as registration requirements and automatic exemptions, designed to deter women from exercising their right to jury service. See, e.g., Fay v. New York, 332 U.S., at 289 (“[I]n 15 of the 28 states which permitted women to serve [on juries in 1942], they might claim exemption because of their sex”); Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S. 57 (1961) (upholding affirmative registration statute that exempted women from mandatory jury service).

The prohibition of women on juries was derived from the English common law which, according to Blackstone, rightfully excluded women from juries under “the doctrine of propter defectum sexus, literally, the `defect of sex.'” United States v. DeGross, 960 F.2d 1433, 1438 (CA9 1992) (en banc), quoting 2 W. Blackstone, Commentaries *362. In this country, supporters of the exclusion of women from juries tended to couch their objections in terms of the ostensible need to protect women from the ugliness and depravity of trials. Women were thought to be too fragile and virginal to withstand the polluted courtroom atmosphere. See Bailey v. State, 215 Ark. 53, 61, 219 S.W.2d 424, 428 (1949) (“Criminal court trials often involve testimony of [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 6]   the foulest kind, and they sometimes require consideration of indecent conduct, the use of filthy and loathsome words, references to intimate sex relationships, and other elements that would prove humiliating, embarrassing and degrading to a lady”); In re Goodell, 39 Wis. 232, 245-246 (1875) (endorsing statutory ineligibility of women for admission to the bar because “[r]everence for all womanhood would suffer in the public spectacle of women . . . so engaged”). Bradwell v. State, 16 Wall. 130, 141 (1872) (concurring opinion) (“[T]he civil law, as well as nature herself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. . . . The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfil the noble and benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator”). Cf. Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 684 (1973) (plurality opinion) (This “attitude of `romantic paternalism’ . . . put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage”).

This Court in Ballard v. United States, 329 U.S. 187 (1946), first questioned the fundamental fairness of denying women the right to serve on juries. Relying on its supervisory powers over the federal courts, it held that women may not be excluded from the venire in federal trials in States where women were eligible for jury service under local law. In response to the argument that women have no superior or unique perspective, such that defendants are denied a fair trial by virtue of their exclusion from jury panels, the Court explained:

    • “It is said . . . that an all-male panel drawn from the various groups within a community will be as truly representative as if women were included. The thought is that the factors which tend to influence the action of women are the same as those which influence

[ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 7]   

    the action of men – personality, background, economic status – and not sex. Yet it is not enough to say that women, when sitting as jurors, neither act nor tend to act as a class. Men likewise do not act like a class. . . . The truth is that the two sexes are not fungible; a community made up exclusively of one is different from a community composed of both; the subtle interplay of influence one on the other is among the imponderables. To insulate the courtroom from either may not, in a given case, make an iota of difference. Yet a flavor, a distinct quality is lost if either sex is excluded.” Id., at 193-194 (footnotes omitted).

Fifteen years later, however, the Court still was unwilling to translate its appreciation for the value of women’s contribution to civic life into an enforceable right to equal treatment under state laws governing jury service. In Hoyt v. Florida, 368 U.S., at 61 , the Court found it reasonable, “despite the enlightened emancipation of women,” to exempt women from mandatory jury service by statute, allowing women to serve on juries only if they volunteered to serve. The Court justified the differential exemption policy on the ground that women, unlike men, occupied a unique position “as the center of home and family life.” Id., at 62.

In 1975, the Court finally repudiated the reasoning of Hoyt and struck down, under the Sixth Amendment, an affirmative registration statute nearly identical to the one at issue in Hoyt. See Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522 (1975). We explained: “Restricting jury service to [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 8]   only special groups or excluding identifiable segments playing major roles in the community cannot be squared with the constitutional concept of jury trial.” Id., at 530. The diverse and representative character of the jury must be maintained “partly as assurance of a diffused impartiality and partly because sharing in the administration of justice is a phase of civic responsibility.'” Id., at 530-531, quoting Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co., 328 U.S. 217, 227 (1946) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting). See also Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357 (1979).

III

Taylor relied on Sixth Amendment principles, but the opinion’s approach is consistent with the heightened equal protection scrutiny afforded gender-based classifications. Since Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), this Court consistently has subjected gender-based classifications to heightened scrutiny in recognition of the real danger that government policies that professedly are based on reasonable considerations in fact may be reflective of “archaic and overbroad” generalizations about gender, see Schlesinger v. Ballard, 419 U.S. 498, 506 -507 (1975), or based on “outdated misconceptions concerning the role of females in the home rather than in the `marketplace and world of ideas.'” Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 198 -199 (1976). See also Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 441 (1985) (differential treatment of the sexes “very likely reflect[s] outmoded notions of the relative capabilities of men and women”).

Despite the heightened scrutiny afforded distinctions based on gender, respondent argues that gender discrimination in the selection of the petit jury should be permitted, though discrimination on the basis of race is [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 9]   not. Respondent suggests that “gender discrimination in this country . . . has never reached the level of discrimination” against African-Americans, and therefore gender discrimination, unlike racial discrimination, is tolerable in the courtroom. Brief for Respondent 9.

While the prejudicial attitudes toward women in this country have not been identical to those held toward racial minorities, the similarities between the experiences of racial minorities and women, in some contexts, “overpower those differences.” Note, Beyond Batson: Eliminating Gender-Based Peremptory Challenges, 105 Harv.L.Rev. 1920, 1921 (1992). As a plurality of this Court observed in Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 685 (1973):

    “[T]hroughout much of the 19th century, the position of women in our society was, in many respects, comparable to that of blacks under the pre-Civil War slave codes. Neither slaves nor women could hold office, serve on juries, or bring suit in their own names, and married women traditionally were denied the legal capacity to hold or convey property or to serve as legal guardians of their own children. . . . And although blacks were guaranteed the right to vote in 1870, women were denied even that right – which is itself “preservative of other basic civil and political rights” – until adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment half a century later.” (Footnotes omitted.)

Certainly, with respect to jury service, African-Americans and women share a history of total exclusion, a history which came to an end for women many years after the embarrassing chapter in our history came to an end for African-Americans.

We need not determine, however, whether women or racial minorities have suffered more at the hands of discriminatory state actors during the decades of our [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 10]   Nation’s history. It is necessary only to acknowledge that “our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination,” id., at 684, a history which warrants the heightened scrutiny we afford all gender-based classifications today. Under our equal protection jurisprudence, gender-based classifications require “an exceedingly persuasive justification” in order to survive constitutional scrutiny. See Personnel Administrator of Mass. v. Feeney, 442 U.S. 256, 273 (1979). See also Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718, 724 (1982); Kirchberg v. Feenstra, 450 U.S. 455, 461 (1981). Thus, the only question is whether discrimination on the basis of gender in jury selection substantially furthers the State’s legitimate interest in achieving a fair and impartial trial. In making this assessment, we do not weigh the value of peremptory challenges as an institution against our asserted commitment to eradicate invidious discrimination from the courtroom. Instead, we consider whether peremptory challenges based on gender stereotypes provide substantial aid to a litigant’s effort to secure a fair and impartial jury.   [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 11]  

Far from proffering an exceptionally persuasive justification for its gender-based peremptory challenges, respondent maintains that its decision to strike virtually all the males from the jury in this case “may reasonably have been based upon the perception, supported by history, that men otherwise totally qualified to serve upon a jury might be more sympathetic and receptive to the arguments of a man alleged in a paternity action to be the father of an out-of-wedlock child, while women equally qualified to serve upon a jury might be m ore sympathetic and receptive to the arguments of the complaining witness who bore the child.” Brief for Respondent 10.   [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 12]  

We shall not accept as a defense to gender-based peremptory challenges “the very stereotype the law condemns.” Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 410 (1991). Respondent’s rationale, not unlike those regularly expressed for gender-based strikes, is reminiscent of the arguments advanced to justify the total exclusion of women from juries. 10 Respondent offers virtually no support for the conclusion that gender alone is an accurate predictor of juror’s attitudes; yet it urges this Court to condone the same stereotypes that justified the wholesale exclusion of women from juries and the ballot [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 13]   box. 11 Respondent seems to assume that gross generalizations that would be deemed impermissible if made on the basis of race are somehow permissible when made on the basis of gender.

Discrimination in jury selection, whether based on race or on gender, causes harm to the litigants, the community, and the individual jurors who are wrongfully excluded from participation in the judicial process. The litigants are harmed by the risk that the prejudice which motivated the discriminatory selection of the jury will infect the entire proceedings. See Edmonson, 500 U.S., at ___ (slip op. 13) (discrimination in the courtroom “raises serious questions as to the fairness of the [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 14]   proceedings conducted there”). The community is harmed by the State’s participation in the perpetuation of invidious group stereotypes and the inevitable loss of confidence in our judicial system that state-sanctioned discrimination in the courtroom engenders.

When state actors exercise peremptory challenges in reliance on gender stereotypes, they ratify and reinforce prejudicial views of the relative abilities of men and women. Because these stereotypes have wreaked injustice in so many other spheres of our country’s public life, active discrimination by litigants on the basis of gender during jury selection “invites cynicism respecting the jury’s neutrality and its obligation to adhere to the law.” Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S., at 412 . The potential for cynicism is particularly acute in cases where gender-related issues are prominent, such as cases involving rape, sexual harassment, or paternity. Discriminatory use of peremptory challenges may create the impression that the judicial system has acquiesced in suppressing full participation by one gender or that the “deck has been stacked” in favor of one side. See id., at 413 (“The verdict will not be accepted or understood [as fair] if the jury is chosen by unlawful means at the outset”).

In recent cases, we have emphasized that individual jurors themselves have a right to nondiscriminatory jury selection procedures. 12 See Powers, Edmonson, and [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 15]   McCollum, all supra. Contrary to respondent’s suggestion, this right extends to both men and women. See Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S., at 723 (that a state practice “discriminates against males, rather than against females, does not exempt it from scrutiny or reduce the standard of review”); cf. Brief for Respondent 9 (arguing that men deserve no protection from gender discrimination in jury selection because they are not victims of historical discrimination). All persons, when granted the opportunity to serve on a jury, have the right not to be excluded summarily because of discriminatory and stereotypical presumptions that reflect and reinforce patterns of historical discrimination. 13 Striking individual jurors on the assumption [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 16]   that they hold particular views simply because of their gender is “practically a brand upon them, affixed by law, an assertion of their inferiority.” Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, 308 (1880). It denigrates the dignity of the excluded juror, and, for a woman, reinvokes a history of exclusion from political participation. 14 The message it sends to all those in the courtroom, and all those who may later learn of the discriminatory act, is that certain individuals, for no reason other than gender, are presumed unqualified by state actors to decide important questions upon which reasonable persons could disagree. 15   [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 17]  

IV

Our conclusion that litigants may not strike potential jurors solely on the basis of gender does not imply the elimination of all peremptory challenges. Neither does it conflict with a State’s legitimate interest in using such challenges in its effort to secure a fair and impartial jury. Parties still may remove jurors whom they feel might be less acceptable than others on the panel; gender simply may not serve as a proxy for bias. Parties may also exercise their peremptory challenges to remove from the venire any group or class of individuals normally subject to “rational basis” review. See Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Center, Inc., 473 U.S. 432, 439 -442 (1985); Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456, 461 (1988). Even strikes based on characteristics that are disproportionately associated with one gender could be appropriate, absent a showing of pretext. 16 

If conducted properly, voir dire can inform litigants about potential jurors, making reliance upon stereotypical and pejorative notions about a particular gender or race both unnecessary and unwise. Voir dire provides a means of discovering actual or implied bias and a firmer basis upon which the parties may exercise their peremptory challenges intelligently. See, e.g., Nebraska [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 18]   Press Assn v. Stuart, 427 U.S. 539, 602 (1976) (BRENNAN, J., concurring in the judgment) (voir dire “facilitate[s] intelligent exercise of peremptory challenges and [helps] uncover factors that would dictate disqualification for cause”); United States v. Witt, 718 F.2d 1494, 1497 (CA10 1983) (“Without an adequate foundation [laid by voir dire], counsel cannot exercise sensitive and intelligent peremptory challenges”).

The experience in the many jurisdictions that have barred gender-based challenges belies the claim that litigants and trial courts are incapable of complying with a rule barring strikes based on gender. See n. 1, supra (citing state and federal jurisdictions that have extended Batson to gender). 17 As with race-based Batson claims, a party alleging gender discrimination must make a prima facie showing of intentional discrimination [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 19]   before the party exercising the challenge is required to explain the basis for the strike. Batson, 476 U.S., at 97 . When an explanation is required, it need not rise to the level of a “for cause” challenge; rather, it merely must be based on a juror characteristic other than gender, and the proffered explanation may not be pretextual. See Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352 (1991).

Failing to provide jurors the same protection against gender discrimination as race discrimination could frustrate the purpose of Batson itself. Because gender and race are overlapping categories, gender can be used as a pretext for racial discrimination. 18 Allowing parties to remove racial minorities from the jury not because of their race, but because of their gender, contravenes well-established equal protection principles and could insulate effectively racial discrimination from judicial scrutiny.

V

Equal opportunity to participate in the fair administration of justice is fundamental to our democratic system. 19 It not only furthers the goals of the jury [ J.E.B. v. ALABAMA EX REL. T.B., ___ U.S. ___ (1994) , 20]   system. It reaffirms the promise of equality under the law – that all citizens, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, have the chance to take part directly in our democracy. Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S., at 407 (“Indeed, with the exception of voting, for most citizens the honor and privilege of jury duty is their most significant opportunity to participate in the democratic process”). When persons are excluded from participation in our democratic processes solely because of race or gender, this promise of equality dims, and the integrity of our judicial system is jeopardized.

In view of these concerns, the Equal Protection Clause prohibits discrimination in jury selection on the basis of gender, or on the assumption that an individual will be biased in a particular case for no reason other than the fact that the person happens to be a woman or happens to be a man. As with race, the “core guarantee of equal protection, ensuring citizens that their State will not discriminate . . ., would be meaningless were we to approve the exclusion of jurors on the basis of such assumptions, which arise solely from the jurors’ [gender].” Batson, 476 U.S., at 97 -98.

The judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama is reversed and the case is remanded to that court for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.