The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) Thursday filed a class action lawsuit to challenge Section 510(3) of the New York Judiciary Law, which disqualifies people convicted of felonies from serving on juries, no matter the nature of the offense or how long ago the convictions occurred.
The civil rights action challenges what the NYCLU calls “mass disenfranchisement of Black people— especially Black men—from the state court jury pool in Manhattan.” The lawsuit alleges that Section 510(3) has been applied alongside decades of racially biased policing and prosecutorial practices to lead to an overall underrepresentation of black people, and black men in particular, on juries.
According to the NYCLU, the disparity is rooted in racist policies and practices throughout the past half-century, including disparate drug enforcement, broken-windows policing and the New York City Police Department’s unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program. The NYCLU estimates that Section 510(3) likely excludes from jury service more than one out of every four otherwise jury-eligible Black residents of New York County. For otherwise-eligible Black men, the exclusion is, “even more devastating,” disqualifying likely more than 40 percent.
The suit argues that this reduction in jury diversity compromises the quality of deliberations, erodes public confidence in the fairness of the jury system, hampers successful reintegration into society and violates the class’s Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.