Duncan v. Louisiana 391 U.S. 145, 88 S. Ct. 1444, 20 L.Ed.2d 491 (1968)
Duncan was involved in a fight
and slapped a guy. He was arrested and charged with simple battery.
Under Louisiana State law, simple
battery was a misdemeanor punishable
by no more than 2 years in prison.
Under Louisiana State law,
there was no guarantee to a trial by jury for misdemeanors.
Duncan was convicted of simple
battery and given a 60 day prison
sentence. He appealed.
The Louisiana Supreme Court
denied certification to hear the appeal. Duncan appealed to the US
Duncan argued that the 6th
Amendment required that he receive a
trial by jury.
Since this case was
prosecuted under State law, there was a debate as to whether the 6th
Amendment extended to State courts
based on the Due Process Clause of the 14th
The US Supreme Court
overturned the conviction.
The US Supreme Court found
that Federal law and the laws of 49 out of the 50 States all required a trial
by jury for offenses punishable by
more than 1 year in prison. In addition, at the time the 6th
Amendment was ratified, it was typical to get a trial by
jury for offenses punishable by more
than 6 months in prison.
Therefore, the Court found
that Louisiana State law was 'out of synch' with historical and current
standards of the US justice system and was therefore unconstitutional.
In this case, the US Supreme
Court applied the selective incorporation approach to the 14th Amendment, which
looks at State laws on a case by case basis and determines if the State
standard is in synch with American jurisprudence (aka is it "fundamental
to the American scheme of justice?").
If there does appear to be a
standard, then it should be uniformly applied across all States and
Federal jurisdiction. If there is no standard, then different
jurisdictions are free to come up with their own solutions, even if those
solutions don't exactly match the Federal law.
This is different from the fundamental
fairness approach, which simply asks
if the law could possibly allow for a fair trial.
In a concurring opinion, it
was argued that the Court should adopt a total incorporation approach, which would require the States to
exactly meet all the standards of the Bill of Rights.
In the total
incorporation approach, if the
Federal government decided to so things a certain way, then all 50 of the
States would have to follow suit, even if they all disagreed with the way
the Federal government was doing it.