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January 27, 2021

SCOTUS Strikes Down Nonunanimous Jury Convictions in Criminal Cases, Cites Professor Aliza Kaplan in Opinion

  • Professor Aliza Kaplan, director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic,
    Steve Hambuchen

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh cited Lewis & Clark Professor Aliza Kaplan, director of the Criminal Justice Reform Clinic, in his concurring opinion in Ramos v. Louisiana. The case, which was decided on April 20, 2020, strikes down nonunanimous jury convictions as unconstitutional.

“Oregon adopted the nonunanimous jury practice in 1934—one manifestation of the extensive 19th- and early 20th-century history of racist and anti-Semitic sentiment in that state,” Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion. The statement cited Kaplan’s article, coauthored with Amy Saack ’17, “Overturning Apodaca v. Oregon Should Be Easy: Nonunanimous Jury Verdicts in Criminal Cases Undermine the Credibility of Our Justice System,” which was published in the Oregon Law Review in 2016.

“Aliza Kaplan has tirelessly advocated against nonunanimous juries in Oregon,” stated John Parry, associate dean of faculty. “Her scholarship and teaching on this topic have had far-reaching impacts, including being recognized by The New York Times, the Oregonian, and news outlets all over the nation.” Clinic students working with Kaplan have been researching the history of nonunanimous jury laws in Oregon for the past five years. In addition to the law review article, the clinic filed two amicus briefs with SCOTUS in different cases.

“Students have participated in every aspect of getting rid of Oregon’s unjust and unconstitutional nonunanimous jury law—they conducted research and helped draft court briefs, articles, testimony, materials, editorials, and conducted presentations,” said Kaplan. The professor and clinic students also worked directly with colleagues in Louisiana to bring attention to this issue through legal work and the media.