Supreme Court Heard Black Juror Exclusion Case

Timothy T. Foster, a black man, was charged with murdering Queen Madge White, a white woman and subsequently convicted by an all-white jury. Decades after this case, Foster challenged the striking of prospective jurors because of their race. The case, Foster v. Chatman, No. 14-8349, is filled with evidence of racial profiling in jury selection by Georgia prosecutors. Pursuant to a request for information, evidence came out showing that prosecutors had marked the names of prospective jurors that were Black with a B and highlighted their names. Prosecutors also circled the race of any juror who identified as Black on questionnaires.


In a prior case in 1986, the Supreme Court ruled that race discrimination in jury selection was unconstitutional. Attorneys had to provide nondiscriminatory reasons for excluding jurors.


Corporations Use Private Arbitration to Restrict Access to Courts

Many corporations have arbitration clauses buried deep in their contracts with consumers. Many credit card companies, for example, require that when there is a dispute, the corporation “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.” These clauses effectively bar consumers from courts, and by extension from forming a class-action lawsuit. The New York Times found that arbitration has become a staple in many consumer contracts ranging from credit cards, cellphones, online shopping, to getting a job, renting a car or placing a relative in a nursing home.


More troubling is an organization’s ability to prescribe the “laws” that will apply. For example, one arbitration clause from a religious organization required that “[t]he Holy Scripture shall be the supreme authority,” during the arbitration. Private arbitration agreements have prevented many individuals from seeking relief from courts.


Opponents Defeat Houston Anti-Discrimination Law

A broad anti-discrimination ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for certain protected classes such as race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity was defeated during Tuesday’s election. Similar ordinances have been approved in 200 other cities. Opponents of this law cited just a single issue: “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.” Opponents believed that this ordinance would create liability for anyone who tried to stop a man from entering a woman’s bathroom.


Contraception and Religion Back in the Spotlight

The Supreme Court announced that it would hear a case regarding the Affordable Care Act’s, also known as Obamacare, requirement that employers provide Food and Drug Administration approved contraception. Certain institutions are already exempt from this requirement, such as places of worship, like churches. In 2014, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court also exempted closely held corporations from this requirement. This challenge, however, involves schools and hospitals affiliated with religious organizations. Although the government already allows an exemption if these organizations inform their insurers, plan administrators, or the government that they seek an exemption, the organizations contend that even requiring this modest step violates their religion.