DC Council member asks court to ban discrimination against LGBT jurors

conversion therapy, Mary Cheh, gay news, Washington Blade
D.C. Council member Mary Cheh says the omission of sexual orientation and gender identity from D.C. Superior Court’s nondiscrimination policy for potential jurors may violate the District’s Human Rights Act. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

District Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) last month sent a letter to the chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court asking him to amend the court’s juror nondiscrimination policy to include LGBT people in the jury selection process.

Cheh, a professor at George Washington University School of Law,
pointed out in her letter to Chief Judge Robert E. Morin that the Superior
Court currently prohibits the exclusion or disqualification of a potential
juror based solely on other categories such as race, religion and ethnicity.

But Cheh noted that the current policy does not extend that
nondiscrimination protection to potential jurors based on their sexual
orientation or gender identity.

“This omission puts the court out of step with the District’s
Human Rights Act, which provides comprehensive nondiscrimination protection to
LGBTQ residents,” Cheh said in her letter to Morin.

“Peremptory challenges or discriminatory treatment based on a
prospective juror’s sexual orientation or gender identity and expression are not
merely hypotheticals,” Cheh said. “Unfortunately, there are numerous examples
of juror challenges, strikes and mistreatment based on the juror’s actual or
perceived sexual orientation or gender identity or expression,” she said in
referring to lawsuits challenging such discrimination in other cities and
states.

Similar to courts throughout the country, D.C. Superior Court
judges may allow defense lawyers or prosecutors to reject a potential juror
during the jury selection process for criminal and civil trials based on
information that the juror may be biased for or against a person or party such
as a business that’s on trial.

Under court rules, lawyers or prosecutors are also allowed what’s
known as a “peremptory” challenge or “strike” to reject a potential juror for
reasons that the lawyer or prosecutor need not disclose. However, as Cheh
pointed out in her letter, in recent years at least four states – California,
Colorado, Minnesota and Oregon – have passed laws banning peremptory rejection
of a juror based solely on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity and
expression.

The juror laws in those four states and other states, similar to
D.C., also have juror nondiscrimination policies covering such categories of
race, religion, and ethnicity.

A spokesperson for Cheh said Morin has not responded to Cheh’s
letter as of early this week.

Published at Thu, 21 Feb 2019 16:03:45 +0000