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THIEL V. SOUTHERN PACIFIC CO., 328 U. S. 217 (1946)

U.S. Supreme Court

Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co., 328 U.S. 217 (1946)

Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co.

No. 349

Argued March 25, 1946

Decided May 20, 1946

328 U.S. 217


1. A federal court jury panel from which persons who work for a daily wage were intentionally and systematically excluded held unlawfully constituted. Pp. 328 U. S. 221, 328 U. S. 225.

2. Such discrimination against daily wage earners as a class was not justified by either federal or California law. P. 328 U. S. 222.

3. The choice of the means by which unlawful distinctions and discriminations in the selection of jury panels are to be avoided rests largely in the sound discretion of the trial courts and their officers. P. 328 U. S. 220.

4. The pay period of an individual is irrelevant to his eligibility and capacity to serve as a juror. P. 328 U. S. 223.

5. Although a federal judge may be justified in excusing a daily wage earner for whom jury service would entail an undue financial hardship, that fact cannot support the complete exclusion of all daily wage earners regardless of whether there is actual hardship involved. P. 328 U. S. 224.

Page 328 U. S. 218

6. Jury service is a duty as well as a privilege of citizenship. A claim of financial embarrassment will excuse only when a real burden or hardship would be imposed. P. 328 U. S. 224.

7. A judgment of the District Court in a case in which that court denied a motion to strike a jury panel from which persons who work for a daily wage were intentionally and systematically excluded is here reversed by this Court in the exercise of its power of supervision over the administration of justice in the federal courts. P. 328 U. S. 225.

8. It is unnecessary in this case to determine whether the unsuccessful litigant was in any way prejudiced by the wrongful exclusion or whether he was one of the excluded class. P. 328 U. S. 225.

9. Nor is it material that the jury which actually decided the factual issue in this case was found to include at least five persons who were of the laboring class, though not per diem workers. P. 328 U. S. 225.

149 F.2d 783 reversed.

Petitioner brought suit in a state court against the railroad company to recover damages for alleged negligence in its treatment of him while a passenger on one of its trains. On application of the railroad company, the suit was removed to the federal district court on the ground of diversity of citizenship. The judgment of the District Court, upon a trial by jury, was in favor of the railroad company. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 149 F.2d 783. This Court granted certiorari limited to the question whether petitioner's motion to strike the jury panel was properly denied by the District Court. 326 U.S. 716. Reversed, p. 328 U. S. 225.

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