United States v. Hernandez-Estrada

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 04-30-2014
  • Case #: 11-50417
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: En Banc: Circuit Judge Thomas for the Court; Chief Judge Kozinski and Circuit Judges Silverman, Graber, Gould, Paez, Rawlinson, Bea, and Nguyen; Concurrences by Circuit Judges M. Smith and N.R. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

When determining whether certain groups are underrepresented, each case should be assessed based on its particular circumstances; and, in order to establish a prima facie case pursuant to the Jury Selection Act, the evidence must show that underrepresentation of minority groups in jury selection proceedings is due to systemic causes.

In 2010, Salvador Hernandez-Estrada was charged with being in the United States as a deported alien. The defendant brought a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Southern District of California (“Southern District”) violated the Jury Selection Act, the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment, and the fair cross-section requirement of the Sixth Amendment by solely relying on registered voter rolls as the source for jury selection, thereby creating underrepresentation of African Americans and Hispanics. The district court denied Hernandez’s motion, holding that while flaws were present in the jury selection process, they did not meet the threshold for a constitutional violation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, but reexamined, en banc, their “exclusive reliance” on the absolute disparity test. The panel ultimately overruled the absolute disparity test because it can be misleading and distorting in regards to underrepresented groups. Instead, courts will assess cases according to their respective contexts and apply methods most appropriate to each particular challenge. In affirming the district court’s ruling denying the defendant’s Jury Selection Act and fair cross-section claims, the panel held that even presuming that underrepresentation of African American and Hispanic citizens was present, the defendant failed to establish a prima facie case because evidence did not show that the Southern District’s underrepresentation in jury selection proceedings is systemic. The panel also held that the defendant did not establish a prima facie case for the equal protection claim because in addition to showing the existence of underrepresentation, there must be evidence of discriminatory intent. Lastly, the panel held that the defendant did not provide evidence showing that the Southern District committed substantial violations of the Jury Selection Act. AFFIRMED.

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