New York excludes all individuals who have ever been convicted of a felony from its jury pool except in the most extraordinary circumstances.This practice undermines the representativeness of juries, their inclusiveness, as well as public confidence in the courts. It leaves whole communities underrepresented in one of the foundations of democracy. It also compromises an individual’s constitutional rights. People with felony conviction histories are included in the jury pools of nearly half of United States jurisdictions, yet the effectiveness of judicial systems in those jurisdictions has not been compromised. The mechanisms for insuring that juries are competent and unbiased—voir dire, peremptory challenges and challenges for cause—all work in those jurisdictions without alienating a segment of the population from the mechanisms of civic participation. The citizens of New York deserve no less.
Thank you to Juan Cartagena at Community Service Society of New York for asking the question and to Professor Ruthann Robson for her guidance in developing the answer into this Note. Thank you also to family and friends who have cheered me on through the writing process.
Paula Z. Segal,
A More Inclusive Democracy: Challenging Felon Jury Exclusion in New York,
N.Y. City L. Rev.
Available at: https://academicworks.cuny.edu/clr/vol13/iss2/5