Georgia v. McCollum

Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that a criminal defendant cannot make peremptory challenges based solely on race.[1] The court had previously held in Batson v. Kentucky (1986) that prosecutors cannot make peremptory challenges based on race, but didn't address whether defendants could use them.[2] The court had already ruled in Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Company (1991) that the Batson prohibition also applies to civil litigants because they are state actors during the jury selection process.[3]

Georgia v. McCollum
Argued February 26, 1992
Decided June 18, 1992
Full case nameGeorgia, Petitioner v. Thomas McCollum, William Joseph McCollum and Ella Hampton McCollum
Citations505 U.S. 42 (more)
112 S. Ct. 2348; 120 L. Ed. 2d 33
The Constitution prohibits a criminal defendant from engaging in purposeful discrimination on the ground of race in the exercise of peremptory challenges.
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
Byron White · Harry Blackmun
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Case opinions
MajorityBlackmun, joined by Rehnquist, White, Stevens, Kennedy, Souter
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV

However, in Polk County v. Dodson,[4] the court had held that a public defender is not a state actor in the context of a lawsuit for inadequate legal representation. McCollum argued that Polk County was the controlling precedent, so public defenders are not state actors during jury selection. Writing for the court, Justice Harry Blackmun disagreed. Blackmun found that whether a public defender is a state actor "depends on the nature and context of the function he is performing."[5] Just as he is a state actor in the context of personnel decisions like hiring and firing attorneys in his office, a public defender is a state actor in the context of peremptory challenges. Like in Edmonson, Blackmun found that race-based peremptory challenges by the defendant violate the Equal Protection Clause and are therefore unconstitutional.

See also


  1. Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42 (1992).
  2. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986).
  3. Edmonson v. Leesville Concrete Co., 500 U.S. 614 (1991).
  4. Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981).
  5. McCollum, 505 U.S. at 54.

Further reading

  • Middleton, Matthew J. (1992). "The Impact of Georgia v. McCollum: Is This the End of Race-Based Peremptory Challenges". Howard Scroll: The Social Justice Law Review. 1: 76. ISSN 1070-3713.
  • Vernon, Eric E. (1993). "Georgia v. McCollum: An Unprincipled and Potentially Unjust Ending to the Peremptory Challenge Cases" (PDF). BYU Law Review. 1993: 1019. ISSN 0896-2383.
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