True Lies: The Role of Pretext Evidence Under Batson v. Kentucky in the Wake of St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks

In the process of determining whether a peremptory strike is valid, lower courts rely on the TI.tie VII burden-shifting framework originally laid out by the Supreme Court in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green As a result, the order and presentation of proof in Batson cases deliberately parallels the order and presentation of proof in TI.tie VII intentional discrimination suits. In light of this similarity, the Supreme Court’s recent TI.tie VII ruling in St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks – that proof of pretext under the McDonnell Douglas framework is not the legal equivalent to proof of intentional discrimination – raises questions regarding the role of pretext evidence in the operation of the present Batson proof structure.

This Note argues that notwithstanding Batson’s reliance on the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework, the current standard of proof under Batson should not be altered along the lines suggested by Hicks. Part I contends that Batson and its progeny are an affirmative effort by the Court to eliminate racism in jury selection. Part II analyzes the Court’s ruling in Hicks and specifically focuses on the Court’s reasons for rejecting proof of pretext as the legal equivalent of proof of intentional discrimination in TI.tie VII cases. Finally, Part III argues that there are fundamental differences between the TI.tie VII employment discrimination context and Batson cases, and as such, the logic underlying Hicks breaks down when applied in cases alleging the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges.