Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co. case brief

Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co. case brief summary
328 U.S. 217 (1946)


CASE SYNOPSIS
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.

DISCUSSION

  • 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 selection. 
  • 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 socially privileged. 
  • 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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