The opinion of the court was delivered by: DUMBAULD
Before reaching the merits of the case at bar, we must consider defendants' motion that this Court should "abstain" from decision of the instant case until the courts of Pennsylvania dispose of the pending criminal proceedings against plaintiff.
We are understandably reluctant to rest our decision upon the shifting sands of the doctrine of "abstention" if other alternatives are available. To wander in the domain of abstention is to find oneself in a "darksome wood" or "obscure forest."
No aspect of the administration of justice in federal courts is beset with more uncertainty and troublesome dubitation.
It would be unprofitable to pause and endeavor to reconcile the spectrum of conflicting Supreme Court decisions
dealing with this topic. We need not try to "find meaning in the meaningless" or "paths in the eternal darkness."
It suffices to say that, however the boundaries and limits of the doctrine of abstention may be delineated, the case at bar is not one where abstention might be appropriate.
Stated simplistically, the substance of the doctrine of abstention is that when there is involved in a case a novel, intricate, difficult, or doubtful question of State law, which has not been but in the near future will be decided authoritatively by the State courts, and the decision of the question of State law will probably be controlling with respect to disposition of the case and will relieve the federal court from deciding a novel, intricate, difficult, or doubtful question of federal constitutional law, then the federal court should abstain.
Plainly, the case at bar does not fall within this category. On the contrary, this case is one where, once the facts are established, it will be a simple matter for this Court to determine whether the procedure of jury selection followed in Allegheny County conforms with the statutory provisions of Pennsylvania law and the established federal constitutional principles set forth in pronouncements of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Turning then to the merits of the case, the Court are unanimously agreed that technically we might well dismiss the case because of plaintiff's failure to meet his burden of proof. At the hearing, neither side offered any evidentiary material whatever to show what was in fact done in connection with the jury selection process. One member of the Court believes that we need go no further, but should dismiss the case upon this ground.
The majority of the Court, however, feel that in a matter of such public interest and importance, involving the fundamental right to jury trial and the basic procedures of law enforcement, it would be more satisfactory to know what the actual facts regarding the matter are before disposing of the case.
At the hearing the Court suggested that the parties should submit proof of some kind regarding the actual practice pursued in jury selection. Affidavits have now been submitted by both parties.
Accordingly, the majority of the Court believe that there is an adequate factual basis for a determination of the propriety of the practice pursued.
Fundamentally, if the slate were clean, we would be free to accept the principle that a State should be free to regulate the manner of selecting juries as it sees fit, just as it is free to mold in general the details of its system of judicial administration. See authorities cited in Dumbauld, The Constitution of the United States, 390 (1964). There should be no intrusion by federal judicatories with the operation of a State system of administering justice in the absence of a clear violation of some specific constitutional provision, or (what amounts to the same thing stated differently) a lack of fundamental fairness or flagrant inequality (which would constitute a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment). Thus a State should be able to impose residence requirements and property qualifications, both for jurors and voters. In the venerated language of George Mason's Virginia Bill of Rights, a State should be free to limit participation in the political process to persons "having sufficient evidence of permanent common interest with, and attachment to, the community." Article 6, quoted in Dumbauld, The Declaration of Independence, 169 (1950).
However, we are bound by decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the doctrine of Turner v. Fouche, 396 U.S. 346, 363, 90 S. Ct. 532, 24 L. Ed. 2d 567 (1970) seems to outlaw limiting public office to property holders. It is true that this case is not entirely on all fours with the case at bar, as it relates to school directors rather than jurors. But the same reasoning would apply, and the conclusion must be reached that if the Pennsylvania statute limits jurors to taxpayers assessed as owners of real property, the statute must be deemed unconstitutional. See also Kramer v. Union School District, 395 U.S. 621, 632, 89 S. Ct. 1886, 23 L. Ed. 2d 583 (1969); Cipriano v. City of Houma, 395 U.S. 701, 706, 89 S. Ct. 1897, 23 L. Ed. 2d 647 (1969); Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 627, 89 S. Ct. 1322, 22 L. Ed. 2d 600 (1969).
It should be noted that the Fouche case also invalidated the Georgia method of selecting jurors. But it is clear in the case at bar that we are not confronted with a classical case of invidious discrimination or systematic exclusion of any particular class of persons from service as jurors. Cf. Ballard v. United States, 329 U.S. 187, 195, 67 S. Ct. 261, 91 L. Ed. 181 (1946). The Ballard case was one involving exclusion of women as jurors. It should be noted that there were men as well as women defendants involved in that case, all of whom benefited by the ruling which invalidated the method of selecting the jury.
If therefore the Pennsylvania statute limits jurors to owners of real estate, any defendant convicted by such a jury would be entitled to raise the question. It is immaterial and irrelevant that plaintiff in this case is black, and that ...