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Can a Juror Be Excluded Based on Sexual Orientation?

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The jury area by dmuth on Flickr (CC license)

The jury area by dmuth on Flickr (CC license)

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering whether a juror may be excluded from a jury on the basis of sexual orientation.

The question arose in the appeal of the verdict in a case in which SmithKlineBeecham accused Abbott Laboratories of antitrust violations when it instituted a 400% price hike of Norvir, a drug used in the treatment of AIDS. In 2011, a jury mostly sided with Abbott Laboratories, but an important issue before the appellate panel now is whether a potential juror can be excluded based on sexual orientation.

The three judge panel heard oral arguments on this issue for more than an hour, but there is no estimate on when their decision might be released.

During the course of jury selection for the underlying trial, a lawyer for Abbott Laboratories excluded a juror who had identified himself as gay. Abbott Laboratories maintains that the reasoning for excluding the juror did not have anything to do with sexual orientation but instead with three factors: the potential juror had a friend who had died of AIDS, had worked in the court system, and had heard of the SmithKline treatment that was the subject of the lawsuit.

Based on two previous decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, excluding a potential juror on the basis of race or gender is prohibited by federal law, but SCOTUS has not yet addressed the issue of sexual orientation.

Could this case and this issue eventually make it the highest court in the land? Stay tuned.

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October 1st, 2013 at 8:52 am

Posted in Legal News

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