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Case: White v. Crook

65-02263 | U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama

Filed Date: Aug. 25, 1965

Closed Date: Feb. 7, 1966

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

This case is part of the Clearinghouse Special Collection on the events and litigation leading up to and surrounding the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965. On August 25, 1965, two plaintiffs brought this class action suit against the Lowndes County, Alabama jury commission. Filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, and represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants systematically excluded African Americans men a…

This case is part of the Clearinghouse Special Collection on the events and litigation leading up to and surrounding the famous Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

On August 25, 1965, two plaintiffs brought this class action suit against the Lowndes County, Alabama jury commission. Filing suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, and represented by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendants systematically excluded African Americans men and women from jury service in the county. The complaint initially challenged the Alabama constitution's complete bar of women serving on juries under the 14th Amendment, seeking injunctive relief.

The plaintiffs amended their complaint, adding other county officials as defendants and seeking a temporary restraining order to stop then-pending criminal cases from progressing. The court denied the restraining order on September 27, 1965.

On October 27, 1965, the Department of Justice intervened pursuant to the Civil Rights Act.

Per state law at that point, jury service was open to all male citizens who are "reputed to be honest and intelligent men and are esteemed in the community for their integrity, good character, and sound judgment." The law expressly excluded from jury service those who could not read in English. Though jury service was expressly limited to men, there was no such express provision barring black individuals from jury service.

Because it challenged the constitutionality of a state statute, the case was heard by a three-judge district court panel; Richard Rives, Frank Johnson, and Clarence Allgood. On February 7, 1966, after reviewing the evidence, the court in a per curiam opinion granted injunctive relief (251 F. Supp. 401).

The court found that neither black citizens nor women had ever served on a county jury, due to practice and statute, respectively. Specifically, the court found that in selecting jurors, the Commission used a list of possible jurors that had no more than 1% black individuals on it, despite the fact that the black men accounted for 72% of the county's adult male population and a substantial number of them met the jury service qualifications. The court further found that the literacy requirement was not uniformly observed, and that jurors were not tested for literacy. Moreover, the court found that no black citizens were registered to vote in the county prior to March 1, 1965, and the Commission's list of eligible jurors tended to overwhelmingly overlap with voter registration lists, indicating the latter was a primary source for obtaining names of prospective jurors. The court also found that a relatively small number of white individuals were used as prospective jurors relative to the available population of white men. The ultimate effect was that no black individual had ever served on a county jury.

Accordingly, the court held that the evidence "requires an inference of systematic exclusion on racial grounds" and that without sufficient explanation, the class of male black citizens have been denied Fourteenth Amendment due process and equal protection rights. The court held that the defendants failed to provide a sufficient explanation, and further that the evidence indicated jury selection processes in fact had both the intent and effect of racial discrimination. Moreover, the court held that the small number of white male jurors used compounded the effect of exclusion and violated the state's own laws about jury selection processes.

The court held that the Alabama statute was arbitrary in its exclusion of women from jury service and therefore violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The court held that jury service was "a responsibility and a right that should be shared by all citizens, regardless of sex." The court found that the Fourteenth Amendment "prohibit[ed] prejudicial disparities before the law...for all citizens— including women." The court found that women were allowed to serve on federal juries, and that only three states - including Alabama - excluded women from state court juries. The court found this exclusion to be arbitrary and unjustified.

The court thus issued an injunction "requiring immediate affirmative action by the jury commissioners" to abandon their current list of eligible jurors and create a new one that included eligible black men. The court further cautioned the defendants to apply their qualifications fairly and objectively, particularly those related to literacy and good character or sound judgment. The court delayed injunctive relief for women, finding that it was reasonable for the state to take time to deal with that statutory change. The court thus gave the defendants until June 1967 after the next state legislature's session to include women in jury service.

The case is now closed. We have limited access to case records and information, but we will update this page if more become available.

Summary Authors

Virginia Weeks (4/15/2018)

People


Judge(s)

Allgood, Clarence W. (Alabama)

Rives, Richard Taylor (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Doar, John (District of Columbia)

Hardeman, Ben (Alabama)

Nesson, Charles R. (District of Columbia)

Rayborn, George (District of Columbia)

Judge(s)

Allgood, Clarence W. (Alabama)

Rives, Richard Taylor (Alabama)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Doar, John (District of Columbia)

Hardeman, Ben (Alabama)

Nesson, Charles R. (District of Columbia)

Rayborn, George (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

65-02263

Brief in Support of Intervenor's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decree

White v. United States of America

Dec. 1, 1965

Dec. 1, 1965

Pleading / Motion / Brief

65-02263

Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Decree

Dec. 23, 1965

Dec. 23, 1965

Pleading / Motion / Brief

65-02263

Reply Brief for the Plaintiff-Intervenor

Jan. 1, 1966

Jan. 1, 1966

Pleading / Motion / Brief

65-02263

Opinion

Feb. 7, 1966

Feb. 7, 1966

Order/Opinion

Docket

Last updated Nov. 29, 2022, 3:21 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Alabama

Case Type(s):

Public Accommodations/Contracting

Special Collection(s):

Civil Rights Division Archival Collection

Selma and Early Civil Rights Enforcement

Key Dates

Filing Date: Aug. 25, 1965

Closing Date: Feb. 7, 1966

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

Black men and all women in Lowndes County, AL

Plaintiff Type(s):

Private Plaintiff

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Attorney Organizations:

U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division

ACLU Affiliates (any)

Public Interest Lawyer: Yes

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Lowndes County Jury Commission (Lowndes), County

Defendant Type(s):

Jurisdiction-wide

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1981

Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201

Constitutional Clause(s):

Due Process

Equal Protection

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Non-settlement Outcome

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Declaratory Judgment

Source of Relief:

Litigation

Form of Settlement:

Confession of Judgment

Order Duration: 1966 - None

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Issues

General:

Access to public accommodations - governmental

Disparate Impact

Disparate Treatment

Discrimination-basis:

Race discrimination

Sex discrimination

Race:

Black

Affected Gender:

Female

Male