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Kentucky Law Journal Hosts Symposium on 30-Year History of Batson v. Commonwealth

November 16, 2016

On Friday, November 4, the Kentucky Law Journal (KLJ) and the University of Kentucky College of Law co-hosted a symposium entitled, “30 Years of Batson: a Retrospective.” The symposium took place in the UK Law Courtroom and was open to the public.

Featuring the nation's top scholars, the program focused on the 30-year history of Batson v. Commonwealth. In the case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenge in a criminal case (the dismissal of jurors without stating a valid cause for doing so) cannot be used to dismiss jurors based on their race. The Court ruled that this practice violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Subsequent jurisprudence has resulted in the extension to civil cases and cases where jurors are dismissed based on their sex.

The tenth oldest student-run law review was fortunate to host two scholars directly involved in Batson: David Niehaus (Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Louisville), who served as the defense attorney for James Batson and Joe Gutmann (Central High School Law and Government Magnet Coordinator and Adjunct Faculty at the University of Louisville), who was the Assistant Commonwealth Attorney who prosecuted the case.

“It was a wonderful opportunity for them to share their perspective of the case,” said Catie Coldiron, Special Features Editor for the KLJ.

Other notable speakers included:

  • Stephen Bright, President and Senior Counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights, Visiting Lecturer at Yale Law School
  • Christia Spears Brown, Professor at the University of Kentucky
  • Catherine Grosso, Professor at Michigan State University College of Law
  • Nancy Marder, Professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Barbara O'Brien, Professor at Michigan State University College of Law
  • Mark Peffley, Professor at the University of Kentucky

"My favorite part of the symposium was meeting Stephen Bright. Professor Bright is a long-standing role model of mine and meeting him was beyond remarkable. I stand with him on many subjects, and I deeply admire his activism,” said R. Nicholas Rabold, Editor-in-Chief of the KLJ.

A luncheon immediately followed the morning panels, featuring Judge Denise Clayton, the first African-American woman to serve on the Kentucky Court of Appeals. In addition to presenters discussing the history of Batson and its implications, students and activists participated by posing questions throughout the symposium. The program was accredited by the Kentucky Bar Association Commission on Legal Education for a total of 3.75 hours of CLE credit.

“UK Law faculty and staff are immensely proud of the hard work and leadership put forth by our students,” said David A. Brennen, Dean at UK Law. “The discussion of landmark cases among some of the nation's top scholars is critical in impacting law and policy, while also enhancing the academic experience for every UK Law student.”