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Strauder v. West Virginia

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100 U.S. 303 (1880), argued 21 Oct. 1879, decided 1 Mar. 1880 by vote of 7 to 2; Strong for the Court, Clifford and Field in dissent. Strauder was one of four cases decided in 1880 involving exclusion of African-Americans from jury service that provided guidelines enabling the southern states to evade the Fourteenth Amendment's equal-protection mandate in jury selection. Strauder was the easiest of the four to resolve, because it involved a state statute that expressly limited jury service to “all white male persons.” The Court had no difficulty in finding that this violated the equal protection clause. In Ex parte Virginia and Neal v. Delaware, the Court held that deliberate exclusion in practice, even if not mandated by express constitutional or statutory provision, also violated the Fourteenth Amendment, thus anticipating its scrutiny of nonfacial discrimination in Yick Wo v. Hopkins six years later. However, the Court negated any advantages these cases might have held out to African-Americans by holding in Virginia v. Rives (1880) that their mere absence from juries, no matter how complete, systematic, or obvious, was not in itself a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Southern officials took advantage of this concession to create exclusionary systems that did not run afoul of Strauder's ban on facial discrimination. In modern times, the Court has held the right of access to jury service a function of the Sixth Amend- ment's guarantee of civil juries (Taylor v. Louisiana, 1975), but the Strauder rule remains good law.

William M. Wiecek

Subjects: Law

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