Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Another step up - Gays may not be barred from juries

Judge Stephen Reinhardt
As Adam Liptak reports in the Times today, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit yesterday barred the use by lawyers of peremptory challenges of potential jurors on the ground that the venireman (to use the old phrase) is gay or lesbian:
“Gays and lesbians have been systematically excluded from the most important institutions of self-governance,” Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel. “Strikes exercised on the basis of sexual orientation continue this deplorable tradition of treating gays and lesbians as undeserving of participation in our nation’s most cherished rites and rituals.”
Like Justice Anthony Kennedy in Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete , 500 U.S. 614, 631 (1991)(extending the bar on racial challenges to civil cases) the 9th Circuit in Smith Kline Beecham v. Abbott Laboratories focuses on the citizenship rights of the juror, rather than the denial to a litigant of a jury of his/or her peers.  Driving the dispute is GSK's allegation of unfair trade practices by Abbott who drove up the price of GSK's HIV drug that Abbott had licensed.  HIV drugs are of particular salience among San Francisco's homosexuals - a community that was among the hardest hit when the epidemic first appeared thirty five years ago.  

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