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Case Basics
Docket No. 
No. 85-5731
(Argued the cause for the United States)
(Argued the cause for the respondent in Griffith v. Kentucky)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner in Brown v. United States)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner in Griffith v. Kentucky)
Facts of the Case 

This case concerned the retrospective application of judge-made rules. Specifically, the Court had to decide whether a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges to exclude black jurors, combined with his call to the jury clerk, violated the black petitioner's right to an impartial jury. The Court was called upon to decide whether the previous decision in Batson v. Kentucky was applicable to pending litigation but not final when Batson was decided. This case was decided together with Brown v. United States.


Could retroactive Supreme Court decisions be applied selectively to cases pending direct review or not yet final?

Decision: 6 votes for Griffith, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: retroactive application of a constitutional right

The Court held that after a new rule had been decided in a particular case, "the integrity of judicial review requires that we apply that rule to all similar cases pending on direct review." The Court reasoned that selective application of new rules violated the principle of treating similarly situated defendants on an equal basis. The Court also refused to make an exception to the rule of retroactivity in cases where there was a "clean break" with past precedent.

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GRIFFITH v. KENTUCKY. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
GRIFFITH v. KENTUCKY, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"GRIFFITH v. KENTUCKY," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,