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New York University School of Law




Every week brings a new story about racialized linguistic discrimination. It happens in restaurants, on public transportation, and in the street. It also happens behind closed courtroom doors during jury selection. While it is universally recognized that dismissing prospective jurors because they look like racial minorities is prohibited, it is too often deemed acceptable to exclude jurors because they sound like racial minorities. The fact that accent discrimination is commonly racial, ethnic, and national origin discrimination is overlooked. This Article critically examines sociolinguistic scholarship to explain the relationship between accent, race, and racism. It argues that accent discrimination in jury selection violates constitutional and statutory law and focuses on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, equal protection under the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments, and the fair cross-section requirement of the Sixth Amendment. It situates accent discrimination within the broader problems of juror language disenfranchisement and racial subordination in the U.S. courts. Finally, it advocates for inclusive practices, namely juror language accommodation.

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