The Supreme Court of California on Wednesday announced it will form a new work group to study whether modifications or additional measures are needed to guard against impermissible discrimination in jury selection.

In the coming weeks, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye will appoint a diverse group of members—to include judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, and other practitioners in criminal and civil litigation—to study the issue through an inclusive process with opportunities for public input and participation.

"In recent years, some states have adopted or begun to consider additional measures designed to address perceived shortcomings in the practical application of the [Batson v. Kentucky] framework and to better ensure that juries represent a cross-section of their communities," the court wrote. "Today we join this dialogue with the creation of the California Jury Selection Work Group."

Questions the California Jury Selection Work Group plans to study include:

  • In light of the goal of eliminating improper discrimination in jury selection, does a purposeful discrimination standard impose an appropriate burden on litigants who attempt to show that a peremptory challenge was motivated by improper considerations or on advocates called upon to explain the basis for their peremptory challenges? What are the pros and cons of possible alternatives? 
     
  • To what extent does unconscious bias affect the jury selection process? Can this unconscious bias be effectively addressed in jury selection, and if so, how? 
     
  • Does allowing peremptory challenges based on a prospective juror’s negative experiences or views of law enforcement or the justice system result in disproportionate exclusion of jurors of certain backgrounds? Does accepting other facially neutral grounds for peremptory challenges have such an effect? If so, how if at all should these practices be addressed? 
     
  • Do current standards of appellate review of peremptory challenges in California adequately serve the goals of [Batson v. Kentucky and People v. Wheeler] jurisprudence?
     
  • Are there other impediments to eliminating impermissible discrimination in jury selection and better ensuring that juries represent a cross-section of their communities? If so, how can these impediments be addressed?
     
  • What kinds of training or guidance would assist advocates and judges in promoting fairness in this area and in making a record that facilitates sound appellate review?
     
  • Should the standard jury instructions that address bias be modified or supplemented to provide more guidance to jurors in addressing bias during the deliberation process?


Read the court's full statement here