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Court: Jurors Can't Be Denied Duty for Their Sexual Orientation

By Michelle Garcia

Lawyers must not discriminate against potential jurors because of their sexual orientation, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The panel overturned a jury verdict in a federal trial challenging the cost of HIV medication, because a potential juror was rejected for service on the case, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that denying gay and lesbian people the right to serve on a jury is a "deplorable tradition" that deems them "underserving of participation in our nation's most cherished rites and rituals."

"To allow peremptory strikes because of assumptions based on sexual orientation is to revoke this civil responsibility, demeaning the dignity of the individual and threatening the impartiality of the judicial system," Reinhardt wrote.

The trial in question was an antitrust case between GlaxoSmithKline and Abbott Laboratories, both manufacturers of drugs that treat HIV. According to Lambda Legal, which submitted an amicus brief regarding the case, Abbott's attorneys turned away a prospective juror because he is gay. Counsel for GSK objected, stating that a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Batson v. Kentucky, precluded using peremptory challenges to strike jurors based solely on their sexual orientation.

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