Women’s History Month together with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote led me to contemplating the role women play in the justice system as jurors.
At common law, women were not called to jury service. Blackstone in his commentaries deliberately eliminated them from persons qualified: "The female is excluded propter defectum sexus (because not of the male sex)."
Even after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote, state courts continued to refuse women the right to serve on juries. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries, but it wasn’t until 1973 that all 50 states passed similar legislation. It was not until 1975 that the United States Supreme Court found a constitutional protection for the right of women to serve on juries. In Taylor v. Louisiana, 419 U.S. 522, 533 (1975), the Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s fair cross-section requirement mandated that states draw juries from venires in which women are not excluded as a class.
It appears that women automatically became eligible for jury service in Ohio when they won the vote in 1920. In Ohio, persons are selected for jury service by random drawing from either a list of registered voters or a combined list of the registered votes and the list of licensed drivers residing in the county or city that the court serves.
In Medina County Court of Common Pleas General Division, jurors are selected from voter registration lists sent to the court from the Medina County Board of Elections at the beginning of each year. A computer program randomly selects the jury pool for the year. To serve on a jury, you must be a bona fide resident of Medina County and at least 18 years of age. A person must not have lost their right to serve on a jury by having been convicted of certain types of crime (or must have had those rights restored). Beyond that, everyone is given the opportunity to be a juror, regardless of age (if at least 18), race, color, creed, occupation or gender. Juries without women would neither represent the community nor allow women full participation as citizens.
Your right to serve as a juror, whether on a grand jury or a petit jury, together with your right to vote are your most direct participation in your own democracy. I encourage you to use this year of celebration as an opportunity to learn more about your rights and responsibilities as an American citizen.