Hobby v. United States
Decided on July 2, 1984; 468 US 339


I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Due process

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does discrimination in the selection of federal grand jury foremen, resulting in the underrepresentation of Negroes and women in that position, require reversal of the conviction of a white male defendant and dismissal of the indictment against him?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

"Petitioner, a white male, was indicted on one count of conspiring to defraud the United States of funds appropriated under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973... Prior to trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, petitioner moved for dismissal of the indictment against him 'due to improper selection of grand jurors.' In particular, he alleged that the grand jury selection plan 'exclude[d] citizens from service . . . on account of race, color, economic status and occupation, in violation of . . . the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution.'

At an evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss, petitioner introduced the testimony of a statistical social science consultant regarding the characteristics of the persons selected as grand jury foremen or deputy foremen in the Eastern District of North Carolina between 1974 and 1981. The expert witness reported that none of the 15 grand juries empaneled during this 7-year period had had a Negro or female foreman. Of the 15 deputies appointed during this interval, so this expert testified, had been Negroes and had been women. From these data the expert witness concluded that Negroes and women were underrepresented among grand jury foremen and deputy foremen serving in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Rejecting petitioner's claim of discrimination in the selection process, the District Court denied petitioner's motion to dismiss the indictment, and petitioner was convicted after a jury trial.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed..."

On certiorari the US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

B. Counsel of Record:

ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)

Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)

Unavailable Unavailable

C. The Arguments:

ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Unavailable Unavailable

III. AMICI CURIAE:

ACLU Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)

Opposing Side
(Respondent/Appellee)

Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed for the American Civil Liberties Union et al. by William Van Alstyne, Sara Sun Beale, Burt Neuborne, and Charles S. Sims; and for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., by Jack Greenberg, James M. Nabrit III, and Charles Stephen Ralston.

Daniel H. Pollitt argued the cause and filed briefs for petitioner.

Joshua I. Schwartz argued the cause for the United States. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Trott, and Deputy Solicitor General Wallace.


IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"Discrimination in the selection of grand jury foremen - as distinguished from discrimination in the selection of the grand jury itself - does not in any sense threaten the interests of the defendant protected by the Due Process Clause. Unlike the grand jury itself, the office of grand jury foreman is not a creature of the Constitution; instead, the post of foreman was originally instituted by statute for the convenience of the court....

Only by setting aside his conviction and dismissing the indictment against him, petitioner urges, will this Court deter future purposeful exclusion of minorities and women from the post of federal grand jury foreman.... However, we decline petitioner's invitation to embark upon the course of vacating criminal convictions because of discrimination in the selection of foremen. Less Draconian measures will suffice to rectify the problem.

In no sense do we countenance a purposeful exclusion of minorities or women from appointment as foremen of federal grand juries. We are fully satisfied that the district judges charged with the appointment of grand jury foremen will see to it that no citizen is excluded from consideration for service in that position on account of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status.

We hold that, assuming discrimination entered into the selection of federal grand jury foremen, such discrimination does not warrant the reversal of the conviction of, and dismissal of the indictment against, a white male bringing a claim under the Due Process Clause."

The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Justice Vote: 3 Pro vs. 6 Con

  • Burger, W. Con (Wrote majority opinion)
  • White, B. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Blackmun, H. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Powell, L. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Rehnquist, W. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • O'Connor, S.D. Con (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T. Pro (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Brennan, W. Pro (Joined dissenting opinion)
  • Stevens, J.P. Pro (Wrote dissenting opinion)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU, as amicus curiae, urged reversal of the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals judgment; the Supreme Court affirmed in a 6-3 vote, giving the ACLU an apparent loss.