Turner v. Fouche

LOCATION: Dodge County Juvenile Court

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 396 US 346 (1970)
ARGUED: Oct 20, 1969
DECIDED: Jan 19, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Turner v. Fouche

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 20, 1969 in Turner v. Fouche

Warren E. Burger:

Number 23 Turner against Fouche and number 30 will follow that immediately.

Mr. Meltsner you may proceed whenever you’re --

Michael Meltsner:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on appeal from a final judgment of a statutory three-judge court convened in the Southern District of Georgia.

It was drawn in 1967 by Negro appellants as a class action challenged violations of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments by Georgia statutes and state constitutional provisions which set out an interlocking system of jury and school board selection and also to enjoin racial discrimination in the enforcement of these statutes by appellee officials in Taliaferro County, Georgia.

Appellants make three claims in this Court.

That the Georgia statute which authorizes jury commissioners to exclude persons from service they deem not intelligent and upright is void for one of the standards.

Secondly that the District Court failed to grant adequate relief to reform racial selection of jurors and school board members, and third that a restriction that school board members be freeholders or real property owners violates the equal protection clause.

The Georgia system for jury and school board selection which is at the center of this case begins when a superior court judge is elected by the voters of multi-county circuits.

In this case, Taliaferro County is one of six counties which vote to elect the superior court judge for the Tombs Circuit.

The judge then selects six citizens of each county who serve as jury commissioners.

These commissioners in turn select jurors from the official registered voter list by disqualifying persons from the list, who they do not believe are intelligent and upright and also by disqualifying persons who are not the right age and haven’t resided in the county for the right period of time and for other similar reasons.

They then reduced the number remaining randomly in order to get a workable number and place that number on a traverse jury list.

From the traverse list, they select not more than two-fifths to constitute the grand jury list.

And from this list, the superior court judge selects names which ultimately constitute the county grand jury.

This grand jury --

Potter Stewart:

The judge himself reforms that last function?

Michael Meltsner:

That’s correct.

He chooses 32 names from the grand jury list, calls the persons into court, hears excuses and then takes the first 23 names remaining on the list.

Potter Stewart:

And the judge himself selects 32 from how many?

Two-fifths of the whole --

Michael Meltsner:

From not more than two-fifths, a number of about a 130 in this county.

Potter Stewart:

And he selects those subjectively or does he pick them in some random objectively?

Michael Meltsner:

No, he picks them from a box randomly.

Gets 32 names, the sheriff goes out, calls those 32 into court.

The judge then hears excuses.

Potter Stewart:

Yes, I understand that part of the right.

Michael Meltsner:

And then takes the first 23 names to constitute the grand jury.

Now, the grand jury among its functions elects the five-man county school board when vacancy has occurred from the freeholders of the county and the school board is responsible for the management and operation of the schools in the county.

Potter Stewart:

What is the term of this grand jury, how long does it stay and exists?