Akin Gump Pens Amicus Brief in Precedent-Setting Decision by NY Court of Appeals That Skin Color Cannot Be Used As Criterion for Excluding Jurors

(New York) – On December 22, 2016, the New York Court of Appeals held in People v. Bridgeforth, a precedent-setting decision, that skin color-based discrimination in jury selection is prohibited under Batson v. Kentucky, the New York State Equal Protection Clause and the New York State Civil Rights Law.

Akin Gump served as pro bono counsel on an amicus brief filed on behalf of more than 30 law professors and 20 nonprofit organizations, including lead amicus Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality. While Batson has long been understood to prohibit racial discrimination, the court here “extend[ed] the application of Batson to challenges based on color to ensure that the jury is not used as a tool to accomplish [color] discrimination” as well.  In its decision, the court expressly relied on several sources set forth in Akin Gump’s brief.

Corporate partner Alice Hsu led the Akin Gump team and outreach efforts to the amici.  Litigation associates Stan Chiueh and Sofie Syed were lead drafters of the amicus brief, with guidance from litigation partner Joseph Sorkin. The team was advised and supported by Pratik Shah, co-head of Akin Gump’s Supreme Court and appellate practice; pro bono partner Steven Schulman; and corporate partner Lucas Torres, associate Chase Mechanick and law clerk Elizabeth Atkins.

To read the court’s decision, please click here.

For more on the case, please click here.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 900 lawyers in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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