Strauder v. West Virginia

Strauder v. West Virginia

Argued October 20–21, 1879
Decided March 1, 1879
Full case name Strauder v. West Virginia

100 U.S. 303 (more)

Exclusion of individuals from juries solely because of their race is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Strong, joined by Waite, Swayne, Miller, Bradley, Hunt, Harlan
Dissent Field, joined by Clifford

Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1880), was a United States Supreme Court case about racial discrimination. Strauder was the first time that the Court had reversed a state criminal conviction for a violation of a constitutional provision concerning criminal procedure.[1]


At the time, West Virginia excluded African-Americans from juries. Taylor Strauder, a black man who had been convicted of murder by an all-white jury. Strauder appealed his conviction by contending that West Virginia exclusionary policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.


The majority opinion, written by Justice William Strong, held that categorical exclusion of blacks from juries for no other reason than their race violated the Equal Protection Clause since the very purpose of the Clause was "to assure to the colored race the enjoyment of all the civil rights that under the law are enjoyed by white persons, and to give to that race the protection of the general government, in that enjoyment, whenever it should be denied by the States." The Court did not say that exclusion of blacks from juries violated the rights of potential jury members, but such exclusion violated the rights of black criminal defendants since juries would be "drawn from a panel from which the State has expressly excluded every man of [a defendant's] race."

The Court did not hold that any particular jury must be racially balanced to satisfy equal protection; the categorical exclusion from all juries was the problem. That holding is reaffirmed in the important 20th-century equal protection case Washington v. Davis: "[Strauder] established that the exclusion" of African Americans from juries violates equal protection, but if a particular jury or series of juries "does not statistically reflect the racial composition of the community does not in itself make out an invidious discrimination forbidden by the Clause" 246 U.S. 229 (1976).

While a victory for the rights of black defendants and an important early civil rights case, Strauder v. West Virginia upheld the right of states to bar women or other classes from juries by holding, in the words of Justice Strong, that a state "may confine the selection to males, to freeholders, to citizens, to persons within certain ages, or to persons having educational qualifications. We do not believe the Fourteenth Amendment was ever intended to prohibit this.... Its aim was against discrimination because of race or color."[2] The precedent set by Strauder has continued to influence rulings in cases as late as 1961 in Hoyt v. Florida 368 U.S. 57 (1961).


The two dissenting justices, Field and Clifford, explained their position in the case of Ex Parte Virginia, decided the same day.[3] In the latter case, Field wrote, with Clifford concurring, "The equality of the protection secured extends only to civil rights, as distinguished from those which are political or arise from the form of the government and its mode of administration."[3]

See also


  1. Michael J. Klarman, The Racial Origins of Modern Criminal Procedure, 99 Mich. L. Rev. 48 (2000).
  2. Kerber, Linda. No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship, p. 133 (Macmillan, 1999).
  3. 1 2 Ex Parte Virginia, 100 U.S. 339 (1879).

Further reading

External links

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