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Ballard v. United States

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Significance: The Supreme Court held that women may not be excluded from jury service in federal trials taking place in states where women were eligible for service under state law.


After Edna Ballard, a leader of the “I Am” movement, was convicted for fraudulent use of the mails, she appealed her conviction on the grounds that the federal courts in California systematically excluded women from juries. At the time federal law required federal courts to maintain the same jury requirements as those of state courts. Although California made women eligible for juries, the state courts did not summon women to serve, and the federal courts in California followed the same practice. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed Ballard's conviction. Speaking for the majority, Justice William O. Douglas reasoned that the various federal statutes on the topic demonstrated that Congress desired juries to represent a cross section of the community. Because women were eligible for jury service under California law, they must be included in the federal trial juries. Although the Ballard decision was an interpretation of congressional statutes, its reasoning was used to arrive at basically the same requirement under the Sixth Amendment in Taylor v. Louisiana (1975).