The Exclusion of Non-English-Speaking Jurors: Remedying a Century of Denial of the Sixth Amendment in the Federal Courts of Puerto Rico
55 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2011 Last revised: 28 Aug 2011
Date Written: August 16, 2011
This Article explores the constitutional implications of the Jury Selection and Service Act’s English language juror prerequisite, as applied in the federal courts in Puerto Rico. The language requirement results in the exclusion of approximately 90% of the age-eligible population of Puerto Rico from federal jury service and disproportionately excludes Puerto Ricans of color and the poor. The Article argues that application of the language requirement in Puerto Rico violates monolingual Spanish speakers’ fundamental Sixth Amendment right to a jury selected from a fair cross section of the community in federal criminal proceedings. It also examines the English language juror prerequisite under the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act and offers a new test to determine the local applicability of not just this language requirement, but all federal statutes to Puerto Rico. This examination is contextualized in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Insular Cases and extraterritorial application of the Constitution, as well as the intrinsically linked relationship between language, political status, and citizenship in Puerto Rico. Ultimately, the Article advocates for the implementation of a juror language accommodation program modeled after the New Mexico state courts.
Keywords: Puerto Rico, English-Only, Language Rights, Sixth Amendment, Jury of Your Peers, Juror Exclusion, Fair Cross Section, Juror Interpretation, Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act
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