Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co. case brief summary
328 U.S. 217 (1946)
The Circuit Court of Appeals for the
Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of
respondent railroad company in petitioner passenger's negligence
suit. Certiorari was granted to address the limited question of
whether petitioner's motion to strike the jury panel was properly
denied by the district court.
CASE FACTS Petitioner passenger brought a
negligence action against respondent railroad company. The judgment
of the district court, upon a trial by jury, was in favor of
respondent. The circuit court of appeals affirmed.
The United States
Supreme Court granted certiorari limited to the question whether
petitioner's motion to strike the jury panel was properly denied by
the district court.
The undisputed evidence in the case demonstrated
a failure to abide by the proper rules and principles of jury
Both the clerk of the court and the jury commissioner
testified that they deliberately and intentionally excluded from the
jury lists all persons who worked for a daily wage.
The Court noted
that jury competence was not limited to those who earned their
livelihood on other than a daily basis.
The Court reasoned that
upholding the judgment would breathe life into any latent tendencies
to establish the jury as the instrument of the economically and
The Court could not sanction the method by which
the jury panel was formed in the case and held that the district
court should have granted petitioner's motion to strike the panel.
The judgment was reversed.
CONCLUSION The Court reversed the judgment for
respondent railroad company because the district court should have
granted petitioner passenger's motion to strike the jury panel due to
the admitted wholesale exclusion of a large class of wage earners in
disregard of the high standards of jury selection. To reassert those
standards required a new trial by a jury drawn from a panel properly
and fairly chosen.
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