No Records, No Right: Discovery & the Fair Cross-Section Guarantee

Author:Nina W. Chernoff
Position::Associate Professor, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law
Pages:1719-1785
SUMMARY

Every criminal defendant has the right to a jury selected from a "fair cross-section" of the community-a pool of people reflecting the community's racial and ethnic makeup. Yet there is substantial evidence that juries in state courts across the country do not reflect a fair cross-section of their communities, in violation of the Sixth Amendment and federal and state statutes. This Article exposes and analyzes one cause of racially unrepresentative juries: state courts' failure to grant criminal defendants access to... (see full summary)

 
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A1_CHERNOFF (DO NOT DELETE) 7/4/2016 4:20 PM
1719
No Records, No Right: Discovery & the
Fair Cross-Section Guarantee
Nina W. Chernoff
ABSTRACT: Every criminal defendant has the right to a jury selected from a
“fair cross-section” of the community—a pool of people reflecting the
community’s racial and ethnic makeup. Yet there is substantial evidence that
juries in state courts across the country do not reflect a fair cross-section of
their communities, in violation of the Sixth Amendment and federal and state
statutes. This Article exposes and analyzes one cause of racially
unrepresentative juries: state courts’ failure to grant criminal defendants
access to jury selection records.
Jury selection records are critical because fair cross-section violations are
frequently hidden from view. For example, a computer error caused the federal
jury selection system in Connecticut to read the “d” in Hartford to mean
“deceased,” and accordingly failed to call anyone from Hartford for jury
service. This hidden error eliminated 63% of eligible African-Americans from
the jury system and thereby produced a racially unrepresentative jury pool in
violation of the fair cross-section guarantee. The flaw went undetected until
a federal defendant obtained access to jury records under federal law. Yet
under Connecticut law, a state defendant in that district would be prohibited
from accessing the records that revealed the error. As a result of state laws like
Connecticut’s, defendants are often denied access to the information they need
to discover violations of the fair cross-section right.
This Article provides the first scholarship analyzing the role of access to records
in constitutional and statutory fair cross-section doctrine. It reveals the way
in which the celebrated constitutional and statutory right to an impartial jury
Associate Professor, City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law. I am grateful
for the research assistance and thoughtful contributions of Joseph Schofield, Kelly M.
Burnett, and Michael Wynn, and for the insights of Ruthann Robson and Mark Raymond
Sylvester. I also benefited from the feedback of Erin Collins, Miriam Baer, and Anders Kaye at
the A.B.A. Criminal Justice Section Faculty Workshop; Kim Thomas, Amber Baylor, Vida Johnson,
and Richard Frankel at the New York University Law School Clinical Law Review Writers’
Workshop; Samantha Buckingham, Cortney Lollar, and Andrew Ferguson at the PDS in the Legal
Academy Symposium; and the attendees of the James T. Gathii Faculty Workshop Series at Albany
Law School and the CUNY Law scholarship workshop. I welcome all feedback and can be reached
at nina.chernoff@law.cuny.edu.
A1_CHERNOFF (DO NOT DELETE) 7/4/2016 4:20 PM
1720 IOWA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 101:1719
depends entirely on the ostensibly minor decision to grant or deny criminal
defendants access to jury selection records.
This Article begins by illustrating why fair cross-section violations are both
invisible and harmful, and describes how federal law has responded by
guaranteeing federal defendants a right to discovery. It uses an original 50-
state survey to reveal that, in contrast to the federal system, the majority of
states keep the door to the fair cross-section right locked by denying defendants
access to the discovery key. In fact, 39 of the 50 states fail to provide access to
the one set of records that defendants must have in order to enforce the right.
This Article analyzes and critiques state court doctrine that elevates
administrative concerns over the fair cross-section right, and concludes by
proposing solutions that could accommodate courts’ concerns without
jeopardizing the fair cross-section guarantee.
I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 1722
II. THE CONTEXT: A UNIQUE PROTECTION, AN INVISIBLE VIOLATION,
AND A REAL HARM ...................................................................... 1725
A. DISCRIMINATION IS THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE FAIR-CROSS
SECTION AND EQUAL PROTECTION GUARANTEES ................... 1725
B. A FAIR CROSS-SECTION VIOLATION IS INVISIBLE AND THUS LEAVES
DEFENDANTS DEPENDENT ON THE GOVERNMENT ................... 1726
1. AN INVISIBLE VIOLATION ............................................ 1726
2. DEFENDANTS ARE DEPENDENT ON THE
GOVERNMENT ............................................................. 1733
C. A FAIR CROSS-SECTION VIOLATION CAUSES REAL HARM ....... 1736
1. The Purpose of the Jury Is to Reflect Community’s
Judgment ................................................................... 1736
2. Racially Unrepresentative Juries Fail to Reflect a
Community’s Judgment ........................................... 1738
3. Government Interest in Racially Representative
Juries .......................................................................... 1745
4. American Juries May Not Be Racially
Representative ........................................................... 1748
III. THE FAIR CROSS-SECTION RIGHT IN FEDERAL COURTS: AN EXPLICIT
RIGHT TO DISCOVERY ................................................................. 1749
A. THE JSSA: PURPOSE AND PLAIN LANGUAGE PROTECT THE FAIR
CROSS-SECTION RIGHT AND PROVIDE ACCESS TO JURY
RECORDS ............................................................................. 1750
1. The Purpose of the JSSA Is to Protect the Fair
Cross-Section Right ......................................................... 1750
2. Plain Language of the JSSA Provides Access to Jury
2016] NO RECORDS, NO RIGHT 1721
Records ...................................................................... 1750
B. SUPREME COURT RECOGNIZES ENTITLEMENT TO JURY
RECORDS ............................................................................. 1752
1. Supreme Court Relies on JSSA’s Purpose and Plain
Language in Granting Access to Records ............... 1752
2. Lower Federal Courts Recognize that JSSA’s Purpose
Requires Access to Records ...................................... 1753
IV. THE FAIR CROSS-SECTION RIGHT IN STATE COURTS: INSUFFICIENT
ACCESS TO RECORDS ................................................................... 1755
A. STATE STATUTES: INADEQUATE PROTECTION FOR FAIR CROSS-
SECTION RIGHT ................................................................... 1756
B. STATE COURTS: IMPOSING BURDEN OF PROOF IN ABSENCE OF
STATUTORY ENTITLEMENT TO DISCOVERY ............................ 1757
V. STATE COURTS ERR IN IMPOSING BURDEN OF PROOF: CROSS-
SECTION PURPOSE DEMANDS DISCOVERY ................................... 1760
A. FAIR CROSS-SECTION PURPOSE OF STATE STATUTES MANDATES
DISCOVERY .......................................................................... 1760
B. FAIR CROSS-SECTION PURPOSE OF STATE OR FEDERAL
CONSTITUTION MANDATES DISCOVERY ................................. 1763
VI. ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUE OF STATE COURTS RATIONALES FOR
DENYING ACCESS ......................................................................... 1764
A. COURTS MAY DENY DISCOVERY BASED ON LEGITIMATE CONCERNS
THAT ARE NOT ACTUALLY THREATENED BY DEFENDANTS
DISCOVERY REQUESTS .......................................................... 1765
1. Concerns About Protecting the Privacy of the Jury Are
Legitimate, but Not Threatened by Discovery ........ 1765
2. Concerns for Judicial Efficiency and Administrative
Burdens Are Legitimate, but Not Threatened by
Discovery .................................................................... 1767
3. Concerns About the Scope of Remedies Are
Legitimate, but Not Threatened by Discovery ........ 1769
B. COURTS MAY DENY DISCOVERY BASED ON A MISUNDERSTANDING
OF THE LAW ........................................................................ 1770
1. Confusing the Discovery Stage with the Merits
Stage ........................................................................... 1771
2. Confusing Fair Cross-Section with Equal
Protection .................................................................. 1771
3. Discomfort with a Burdenless Request and Distrust of
Defense Motives .............................................1772
C. INADEQUATE ADVOCACY MAY CONTRIBUTE TO ERRONEOUS
DISCOVERY DENIALS BY COURTS ..................................1773

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