Louisville Democratic leadership doesn’t care if black people serve on juries.

So, WDRB has this story about a black Louisville judge (Olu Stevens) who has at least twice dismissed all-white juries when there’s a black defendant. The Kentucky Supreme Court is going to be investigating that, and it makes sense that they’re investigating that. But… there’s this data nugget about the Jefferson County jury pool:

[I]n October, 14 percent of potential jurors were black, far below the estimated 21 percent for all residents of Jefferson County, according to records kept by the commission. In September, 13 percent of potential Jefferson County jurors were black.

That’s a significant skew. In one of the cases that is under scrutiny the jury pool consisted of 37 white people, and 3 black ones; and that’s a little weird. Actually, it’s a lot weird, because the problem has been going on for over a decade and nobody seems to have done anything about it…

…ah.  Much is now explained. In 2003 political control of Jefferson County, Kentucky was formally transferred from a County Judge/Executive to the Mayor of Louisville’s office (current Mayor: Greg Fischer). Which essentially means that county control flipped from the Republicans to the Democrats over a decade ago, which is about enough time for things over there to go generally to seed. As the Courier-Journal link above demonstrates, the new government apparently has a history of not bothering to actually follow up on jury duty summonses, which suggests that the city government is actually fine with having white people dominate the jury pool.

Gee. I wonder why a bunch of white Democratic politicians in Kentucky might want to discourage black people from exercising their civic obligations.  Yeah. It’s an absolute, total mystery to me.

All of which means that I actually have a little bit of sympathy for Judge Olu Stevens, here; this is so absolutely typical of the kind of situation that Democratic-controlled political jurisdictions can get themselves into.  It’s not in fact Judge Stevens’ job to get a representative jury pool. Instead, it’s the job of the Mayor’s office, since they’re apparently in charge of Jefferson County now. But the Democrats don’t want to do that particular job, and that casual indifference then goes and propagates down the chain until we have a judge who now feels it’s necessary to do the judicial equivalent of smack the mechanism with a lug wrench in order to get it to work again.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I fully agree that the jury process should be color-blind. But we live in a fallen world;  besides, you can make the argument that Democrats in Jefferson County are taking advantage of regular folks’ support for egalitarianism and impartiality to get away with discouraging civic activity among minorities. It’s certainly the charge that would be made if Jefferson County was a Republican stronghold! …Then again, if it was a Republican stronghold it’d probably have a much higher minority jury participation rate. Because my party actually, you know, knows how to run things properly (at least on the state and local level).

Moe Lane (crosspost)

3 thoughts on “Louisville Democratic leadership doesn’t care if black people serve on juries.”

  1. Funny this should come up. About 15 years ago I clerked for a judge on the Wayne County (Michigan) Circuit Court, Criminal Division. There was a challenge to how the county was selecting for the veniere, and the County Clerk’s Office had people testify. It had been noticed that there were fewer people from Detroit showing up to the summonses than from the rest of the county – the summonses were based on drivers licenses. So the county decided to double the draw from Detroit as opposed to the rest of the county in order to get a demographically balanced jury pool.

    So yes, these problems can be fixed if you actually want to DO something about them. (Speculation as to why this problem was there ran from the culture of Detroit, bad addresses due to people moving frequently, and so on.)

  2. Is ten percent compared to twenty statistically significant?
    If you pull marbles out of a vat that is evenly mixed with 20% one color, getting 10% or 30% doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
    There is math for calculating your odds of getting m marbles of one color when you pull n out. The fewer marbles you pull out each time, the fewer times you pull marbles out, the lower the chance that the marbles you pull out closely resemble the contents of the vat.
    How many people do they call out for Jury duty? What is the overall population? What is the statistical error of the census estimates? If you have these, you can calculate the range of variation one would normally expect.
    This can be critical to these sorts of news stories, and I’ve rarely seen it well covered.

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