The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that lawyers can’t discriminate against jurors based on their sexual orientation. The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel is the first to expand juror protections to include sexual orientation, and could open the door to similar challenges of discrimination against gays and lesbians. Legal analysts note that the Ninth Circuit’s decision is at odds with a decision by the federal court of appeals in St. Louis, which increases the likelihood that the Supreme Court will eventually rule on the issue.
The decision, involving jurors selected to serve on a federal antitrust case about an AIDS drug, expands the 1986 Supreme Court ruling in Batson v. Kentucky. Batson declared that jurors can’t be excluded from serving in federal court cases on the basis of race. The story of the Batson case and its expansion prohibiting jury discrimination based on race in civil trials are chronicled in our film, Jury Selection: Edmonson v. Leesville.