Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc. - Oral Argument - January 15, 1991

Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc.

Media for Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 03, 1991 in Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 15, 1991 in Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument now in No. 89-7743, Thaddeus Donald Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company, Inc.--

Mr. Doyle.

James E. Doyle:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The issue in this case is whether Batson v. Kentucky applies in civil cases in the United States district courts.

More specifically, the question before you today is whether, in a case in which a black man is a litigant, counsel for his opponent can use his statutorily granted peremptory challenges to remove blacks from the jury panel without any question or without any interference from the court.

We contend that he cannot, and we suggest three reasons why such a practice is inconsistent with the dictates of this Court.

One is constitutional based upon an equal protection analysis.

The other two are nonconstitutional issues, one statutory and one based upon the supervisory power of this Court.

At the outset, this Court should note the conflict among the circuit courts of appeals which now exists.

As recently as last month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in a case called Dunham v. Frank's Nursery and Crafts, which is cited in the reply brief, ruled in a case on all fours with the case before you today that Batson does apply in civil cases.

Prior to that ruling, the Eleventh Circuit had reached the same result in a case in which certiorari was denied by this Court.

The Eighth Circuit has ruled that with respect to a governmental litigant the Batson rule does apply and does extend to civil cases.

That case now awaits action by this Court on a petition.

In this particular case, the plaintiff filed suit as a result of injuries that he sustained while he was working on a United States Army base.

The case was tried to a jury selected from a venire compiled in accordance with Federal law.

The panel of 12 was ultimately chosen from 18 who were selected to sit in the box.

Of that number... of the 18, that is... 3 were members of the black race.

Voir dire was conducted by the trial judge, and at its conclusion, the judge and counsel retired to the judge's chambers to exercise their peremptory challenges.

At that point, counsel for the respondent exercised two of his three challenges against black jurors.

And--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Is that the way it's done in that State, you go to the judge's chambers to exercise the peremptory?

James E. Doyle:

--That was the practice of this particular Federal district judge, Justice Kennedy.

He... and they are done in writing.

You will be given a sheet of paper and on that sheet of paper you will list by name the jurors that you are challenging and submit that to the court, who will then read the challenges on the record in chambers.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

And the challenges for cause have been exhausted in open court?

James E. Doyle:

The challenges... there was one challenge for cause in this case, and it was done in open court.

That would be the routine that this judge did employ.

Challenges for cause--

Anthony M. Kennedy:

The routine he employed was that the challenges for cause were in open court?

James E. Doyle:

--Yes.