SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Attorney General Sean D. Reyes joined the State of Virginia in filing an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in Missouri Department of Corrections v. Finney. The coalition of attorneys general urges the nation’s high court to take this case, which involves a question of “discrimination on the basis of religion during voir dire.”
Jean Finney sued her employer, the Missouri Department of Corrections, alleging that “she was improperly stereotyped and discriminated against based on sex.” During voir dire, Finney’s counsel asked potential jurors about their religious beliefs, highlighting three potential jurors who came from particular religious backgrounds for the judge to strike. The judge removed the jurors, and Finney won the case. The Department asked for a new trial based on the removal of the jurors, which the circuit court denied. The state Court of Appeals decided that there were no Constitutional infractions, leading to the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In their brief, the attorneys general argue that “service on a jury is one of the most substantial opportunities citizens have to participate in the democratic process and should be protected” and that “the Fourteenth Amendment forbids striking jurors based on religious stereotypes.”
The States write the following:
The message that striking jurors on the basis of their religion sends ‘to all those in the courtroom, and all those who may later learn of the discriminatory act, is that certain individuals, for no reason other than [religion], are presumed unqualified by state actors to decide important questions upon which reasonable persons could disagree.’ This Court should not stand idly by while such religious persecution exists. It should grant the petition and guarantee for people of faith the same guarantee of equal treatment in the jury box that this Court has guaranteed in other contexts.
Joining Utah and Virginia on this amicus brief were the States of Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, and West Virginia.