Kentucky Supreme Court grants certification of law request to review jury selection practice in Jefferson County

Due to public interest concerning the unique jury selection practice of one circuit court judge in Kentucky, attached are copies of the certification of law request and Supreme Court order granting the request for oral arguments.

There are several important points to be emphasized.

  1. Our request for guidance is important because we believe the right of a properly empaneled juror to serve is fundamental to our judicial process. Kentucky courts have consistently held the process used in Jefferson County is fair and insures all persons regardless of race or gender the opportunity to serve.  In Rodgers v. Com., 285 S.W.3d 740, 759 (Ky. 2009), the Kentucky Supreme Court clearly stated,

“It is not enough to allege merely that a particular jury or a particular venire failed to mirror the community, for . . . defendants are not entitled to a jury of any particular composition, . . . but the jury wheels, pools of names, panels, or venires from which juries are drawn must not systematically exclude distinctive groups in the community and thereby fail to be reasonably representative thereof.”

The United States Supreme Court held in Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 404 (1991),

“[A] defendant has no right to a petit jury composed in whole or in part of persons of [the defendant’s] own race”; however, “he or she does have the right to be tried by a jury whose members are selected by nondiscriminatory criteria.”

  1. Our office values diversity. Despite assertions to the contrary, we do not advocate all white juries.  We do advocate juries selected in accordance with our Supreme Court Rules.  The rules require the initial group be selected in a nondiscriminatory process to allow for the best cross-section of the community.  That group is qualified to serve until they are called for a specific case where individual jurors might be removed either by the court, at the request of a party, or randomly
  1. For nearly two decades, I have served on local and state committees advocating changes to our statutes and Rules to increase juror participation. These changes include using any government issued ID to get on jury rolls, increased jury pay, and requiring employers to pay jurors’ salaries while in jury service. Such changes would benefit all jurors, generally, and economically disadvantaged jurors, specifically.
  1. Because we are committed to the right of jurors to serve regardless of race or gender, we have asked the Kentucky Supreme Court to review the practice of setting aside a properly empaneled jury. This practice of setting aside a properly empaneled jury has been adopted in only one of the over 200 trial courts in the Commonwealth and is worthy of review.

Thomas B. Wine
Commonwealth’s Attorney for the 30th Judicial Circuit

Attached: Motion for Certification of the Law and Order Granting Certification of Law and Set for Oral Argument [PDF]