Policing the Borders of Democracy: The Continuing Role of Batson in Protecting the Citizenship Rights of the Excluded

Author:Melynda J. Price
Position:Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of Law
Pages:1635-1644
 
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Policing the Borders of Democracy: The
Continuing Role of Batson in Protecting
the Citizenship Rights of the Excluded
Melynda J. Price
I came to Kentucky not really thinking about this state as being the
origin of the case upon which so much of my work is focused—Batson v.
Kentucky.1 For many Supreme Court cases, the law handed down from the
Court seems detached from the places and circumstances where the
litigation began—almost suspended above the real people whose lives are
part of the impetus for such systemic change to the law and legal practices.
However, in discussing the legacy of Batson, it is appropriate to revisit the
place where Batson began.
Early in my time at the University of Kentucky College of Law, I heard
about the efforts of a judge in Louisville aimed at reducing racially
discriminatory jury practices—practices that Batson and its resulting policies
were partly formulated to cure. When I initially met Judge Denise Clayton,
my first thought was that she should be taller. A woman who has done what
she has done seems tall on paper. However, she is not tall. She is a compact,
friendly woman who tells the truth no matter who is in the room. Before
being appointed to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, she served in a family
court, district court, and drug court in Jefferson County, which spans much
of metropolitan Louisville.2 Judge Clayton, like many in her generation of
African American women, has a résumé with a litany of firsts—she was the
first African American woman to serve on the Kentucky Court of Appeals
and the first African American woman to serve on the Kentucky Circuit
Robert E. Harding, Jr. Associate Professor of Law, University of Kentucky College of
Law. I would like to first thank Dean Margaret Raymond of the University of Wisconsin Law
School and Professor James Tomkovicz of the University of Iowa College of Law for extendin g
an invitation to participate in a really important and fantastic symposium. I owe thanks to my
research assistant Hamida Labi and my friend and colleague Allison Connelly for their
thoughtful readings and comments. Though others have helped shape this work, its flaws, as
well as its good points, are mine. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to
contact me at melynda.price@uky.edu.
1. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).
2. Judge Denise Clayton, KY. CT. JUST., http://courts.ky.gov/courtofappeals/judges/
clayton.htm (last updated Nov. 29, 2007).

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