Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Jural Districting: Selecting Impartial Juries Through Community Representation


Court reformers continue to debate over efforts to select juries more diverse than are typically achieved through existing procedures. Controversial proposals advocate race-conscious methods for selecting diverse juries. Such efforts, however well-intentioned, face constitutional difficulties under the Equal Protection Clause, which appears to preclude any use of race in selecting juries. The challenge thus presented by the Court's equal protection jurisprudence is whether jury selection procedures can be designed that effectively enhance the representative character of juries without violating constitutional norms.

Professor Forde-Mazrui offers a novel insight for resolving this challenge. Analogizing juries to legislatures, he applies electoral districting principles to jury selection. Striking parallels between legislatures and juries justify comparing the selection of jurors to the election of legislators. Both legislatures and juries are fundamental institutions that best serve their function when their membership is representative of their respective jurisdiction. The electoral process enhances the representative character of legislatures through single-member districting. Although limiting the use of race in drawing electoral districts, the Court has endorsed designing districts around "communities of interest," communities with shared political interests identified geographically by demographic characteristics such as residential proximity, socioeconomic class, occupation, religion, and political affiliation. Curiously, the Court even permits some use of race in drawing districts provided it is only one among many factors.

Drawing on electoral districting experience and doctrine, Professor Forde- Mazrui proposes a jury selection procedure he terms 'jural districting." An implementing jurisdiction would divide a jury district into twelve sub-districts, designed around "communities of interest," and would require juries to contain jurors from every sub-district. Such a procedure should satisfy constitutional objections and, moreover, would create broadly diverse juries representing a variety of communities, including communities identifiable by race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, and socioeconomic status. Jural districting would thereby create juries more broadly representative than juries selected by current procedures or even by proposals relying predominantly on race. By improving the quality of jury decision-making through deliberation and consensus among a cross section of groups, jural districting would thereby restore a substantial measure of legitimacy to the jury system.