Three Discrimination Cases
Presented below is information concerning three historically important cases. In each of them you are asked: Does the claim of discrimination appear warranted? Explain your reasoning.
Case #1: In the 1960’s, only males who were 21 years old and older were eligible for jury duty in Alabama. About 26 percent of the adult males in Talladega County, Alabama, at that time were black. The murder conviction of a black man in Talladega County was appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds that there were no blacks on the jury, and indeed no black men had served on juries in Talladega County “within the memory of persons now living.’ The U.S. Supreme Court (Swain v. Alabama, 1965) denied the appeal, noting that there had been 8 blacks on the 100-person panel from which the final jury had been selected. (The prosecution had ruled out these eight with constitutionally protected peremptory challenges.)
(-Ace #2: The 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case Castaneda v. Partida involved a criminal trial that originated in Hidalgo County, Texas (on the U.S.-Mexico border). The defendant in the trial appealed his conviction by contending he had been denied his constitutional right to a trial by a jury of his peers. Specifically, he argued that the jury selection process systematically excluded Hispanics from jury service. Texas at the time employed a ‘key mar system for choosing jury pools. In this system, respected individuals in the county were identified, and requested to recruit reliable persons for jury service.
There were no current records identifying county residents by ethnicity. The county did have lists of people eligible for jury duty, as well as lists of those actually called for jury duty. Examination of the surname was used as a proxy for Hispanic ethnicity. At the time, there were 181,535 persons eligible for jury duty in the county, of whom 143,611 were Spanish-surnamed. Of 870 persons selected for jury duty, 339 were Spanish-surnamed.
r se #3: Hazelwood School District v. United States was another important 1977 rase, this time dealing with (alleged) employment discrimination. Hazelwood was a largely white suburb of St. Louis, MO. The school district there was accused of discriminating against blacks in its hiring of teachers. In the 1972-73 school year, 10 of 282 new teacher hires were black; in 1973-1974 the rate was 5 of 123.
One of the issues raised in the rase was the appropriate reference group with which to compare these hiring numbers. In the 1972-1973 school year, 576 of 25,166 pupils in the school district were black. Per 1970 census figures, 15.4% of the teachers in the combined area of St. Louis City and St. Louis County were black. The figure was 5.7% for St. Louis County alone. (Note that the City of St. Louis is an independent city; while surrounded by St. Louis County it is not governmentally part of that county.)
Excerpts from the text of the Supreme Court majority opinion in the Hazelwood rase are available here. Use that background information to help you decide upon an appropriate analysis.