Master Jury List

Master Jury List in the United States

Representative list of citizens from which the trial jury selection process begins. Juries are supposed to reflect a cross-section of the community, and the master jury list provides the source from which a representative sample of citizens may be drawn for service on specific cases. The procedure developed to select master jury lists must yield a representative sample. Under provision of the Federal Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968, the procedure must not exclude anyone from the possibility of jury service on the basis of race, gender, national origin, or economic status. The most common source for gathering names for the master jury list (or jury wheel) are lists of registered voters. While registered voter lists are not without some bias, they are usually current and computerized. Some jurisdictions operate from lists of licensed drivers or those billed for utilities like water service. Many jurisdictions have used computers to merge two or more different kinds of lists to maximize representation of the master jury list.

See Also

Jury (Criminal Process); peremptory challenge, 167; Venire (Criminal Process).

Analysis and Relevance

Master jury lists must reflect a cross-section of a community. Master lists can be challenged if they fail to represent blacks, Hispanics, or women solely on the basis of race, national origin, or gender. The first Supreme Court ruling on racial discrimination in creating a master list came in Norris v. Alabama (294 U.S. 587: 1935). This decision came on appeal of the infamous Scottsboro trial, and the Court categorically prohibited systematic exclusion of persons from jury service on the basis of race. The Norris holding, however, did not require that any particular jury must reflect the racial, socio-economic, or gender composition of the community. Only since the mid-1970s has the Court ruled out jury selection methods that seriously underrepresent, as distinct from systematically excluding, particular groups. In Taylor v. Louisiana (419 U.S. 522: 1975), for example, the Court invalidated a selection method that required additional qualifying steps for women, thus substantially reducing their numbers from the master list. In Batson v. Kentucky (476 U.S. 79: 1986), the Court examined more subtle discrimination through the use of peremptory challenges. Where a prima facie case of intentional discrimination can be established, Batson shifts the burden of proof to the state to offer a neutral explanation for striking black jurors.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Master Jury List from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Master Jury List: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

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