SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


Critics of peremptory-challenge systems commonly contend that they inevitably inflict “inequality harm” on many excused persons and should be abolished. Ironically, the Supreme Court fueled this argument with its decision in Batson v. Kentucky by raising and endorsing the inequality claim sua sponte and then purporting to solve it with an approach that preserved peremptories. This Article shows, however, that the central problem is something other than inequality harm to excused persons. The central problem is the harm to disadvantaged litigants when their opponents use peremptories to secure a one-sided jury. This problem can arise often—whenever a venire is slanted in favor of one of the parties. The advantaged litigant can use peremptories to seat a large group of favorable jurors regardless of how the disadvantaged litigant exercises its peremptories. The Court in the Batson cases only obliquely confronted that problem, because constitutional rulings cannot appropriately resolve it. However, there is a remedy. Peremptory systems reflect the idea that parties acting in their self-interests can help pursue group neutrality on a jury. Similarly, by conferring on litigants a right to stop peremptories at any time, states can enlist them to determine when opposing parties are using peremptories to promote group bias.