I mentioned in a prior post that I’m listening to the Supreme Court oral arguments that are now available on the Oyez Project at Chicago-Kent. One that was high on my list to listen to was Hoyt v. Florida, a 1961 decision that upheld a Florida law that only made jury service mandatory for men. Hoyt was convicted of killing her husband by an all-male jury, on her argument on appeal was that Florida’s statute, which said that women had to affirmatively volunteer to be in the venire, denied her a fair trial. The Court rejected this challenge unanimously.
The argument is fascinating because it contains a mix of modern gender discrimination arguments and traditional stereotypes. Hoyt’s attorney made some claims that sound familiar (women suffered from broad discrimination, we would be skeptical of a man convicted by an all-female jury for killing his wife), but he also made the curious choice to say that his co-counsel who wrote most of the brief was a woman but he was arguing the case. He also was more or less forced to rely on gender stereotypes (e.g., women are more emotional) to argue why women should be on juries.
Anyone, it’s well worth a listen.