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Are Hunters a Protected Class?

September 23, 2010

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During jury selection, litigants are permitted a certain number of “peremptory challenges” which allow them to reject a potential juror without cause or explanation. The United States Supreme Court, however, held in <i>Batson v. Kentucky </i>that an attorney cannot exercise such a challenge in a manner that discriminates against potential jurors due to their race, gender or ethnic background.
Recently, in <i>People v. Robar</i>, a judge in upstate New York said that, pursuant to <i>Batson</i>, an attorney could not use peremptory challenges to systematically excluded hunters. During a hunting incident, Robar shot another hunter with his high-powered rifle, and was charged with assault and reckless endangerment.
During jury selection, Robar’s attorney used six of ten challenges on hunters. The Court found that hunters were "a class of people recognized by law" who are licensed "to bear arms," pursuant to the Second Amendment but were “systematically excluded."
We doubt this decision will stand, as an appellate court is likely to agree with defense counsel’s arguments that hunters are not a cognizable class under <i>Batson</i> and that hunting is a hobby that is not protected in the same manner as race or gender. We’ll keep you posted.
Please contact Mike Bono at <a href="mailto:mbono@wcmlaw.com">mbono@wcmlaw.com</a> if you would like more information about this post.
<a href="http://www.nylj.com/nylawyer/adgifs/decisions/090310transcript.pdf">Transcript of Decision</a>

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