Do U.S. courts have to select a jury that's racially representative? I am wondering if there's a legal obligation of that sort nationwide, or if it varies by state, or if no such consideration needs to be made when selecting a jury.

  • 8
    Meaning, if 8 percent of the district's population is black, there must be exactly one black juror? Members of any race that makes up less than 1/24 of the population are automatically excused from jury service? Of course not. It would be completely unworkable.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 2:58
  • The exact process varies considerable from court system to court system (even, e.g. between federal and state courts in the same state). But there are significant constitutional boundaries that are national.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 19:38

1 Answer 1



The government may not establish laws to keep members of a particular race out of the jury pool. Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303, (1879) (“The statute of West Virginia, which, in effect, singles out and denies to colored citizens the right and privilege of participating in the administration of the law, as jurors, because of their color, though qualified in all other respects, is, practically, a brand upon them, and a discrimination against them which is forbidden by the amendment.”).

And once they are part of the pool, jurors may not be eliminated simply because of their race. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 80 (1986) (“The Equal Protection Clause forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race”).

But there is no requirement that the jury have any particular racial composition when it is finally seated. Akins v. Texas, 325 U.S. 398, 403 (1945) (“Purposeful discrimination is not sustained by a showing that on a single grand jury the number of members of one race is less than that race's proportion of the eligible individuals.”)

  • 6
    "jurors may not be eliminated simply because of their race." Clearly this is done all the time, but the key here is don't write it down.
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 4:57
  • 2
    Perhaps a better key is just to refrain from the practice.
    – bdb484
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 5:06
  • 2
    Great last paragraph. It hints that purposeful discrimination could be proven by demonstrating that disproportional composition is the consistent outcome across many jury selections, and that that would be considered illegal. Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 10:44
  • 1
    Intermediate between Strauder and Batson is the constitutional requirement that the jury commissioner make a reasonable effort to obtain a "fair cross-section" of eligible jurors (on factors beyond merely racial factors) that is stronger than the requirement to merely refrain from excluding jurors in an intentionally or facially racially discriminatory manner. For example, a jury pool should not categorically exclude high school dropouts even if this has no disproportionate racial impact. cga.ct.gov/2020/rpt/pdf/2020-R-0299.pdf See Duren v. Missouri, 439 U.S. 357, 364 (1979)
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 19:32
  • 1
    It's actually unconstitutional to do it just once, as I understand it.
    – bdb484
    Commented Aug 25, 2021 at 0:58

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