Duncan v Louisiana case brief + full opinion


here you will see the Duncan v Louisiana case brief.

Duncan vs Louisiana was a landmark US Supreme Court case that extended the Sixth Amendment to the U.S constitution‘s rights to a jury trial and applied it to states.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, including the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer,  the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.

Here I will share with you the Duncan v Louisiana case brief to help you understand everything you need to know about the Duncan v Louisiana case in a simple and accurate way.

Interested in learning how to write your own case brief? learn here.

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Duncan v Louisiana case brief

Duncan v. Louisiana – 391 U.S. 145, 88 S. Ct. 1444 (1968)

Decided on December 21, 1968


Mr. Justice WHITE, Supreme Court of the United States


Gary Duncan is the Appellant and State of Louisiana, Appellee.


The Appellant was convicted, by the Twenty-fifth Judicial District Court of Louisiana. He Appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Supreme Court of the United States reversed and remand the decision of the Twenty-fifth Judicial District Court of Louisiana.


Gary Duncan, a 19-year-old African-American, was driving down a Louisiana highway in October 1966 when he observed his nephew Bert Grant and cousin Bernard St. Ann by the side of the road with a group of four white youths, including Herman Landry.

His cousins had reported “racist incidents” at the recently desegregated school, and he felt apprehensive. He pulled over to the side of the road, stepped out, and signaled for his cousins to enter the vehicle. Duncan was called a racial slur by Landry.

“Reaching out to the boy’s arm in a gesture that was both conciliatory and final,” Duncan encouraged Landry to go home.

At this point, white teens testified that Duncan slapped Landry, but Duncan and his family denied it. Duncan was taken into custody and charged with simple battery.

Simple battery is a misdemeanor in Louisiana, punishable by no more than two years, so he was not subject to a jury trial.

Duncan was found guilty and sentenced to 60 days in prison and a fine of $150.

He appealed, claiming that the state had violated his right to a jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments.


Does the  Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantee the right to a jury trial in misdemeanor offenses?


The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in all criminal cases.


On applying the rule to the facts, the court reasoned that In criminal matters, a jury trial is essential to the American judicial system because it serves to prevent state oppression.

The Court further noted that In major criminal situations, the right to a jury trial serves as a deterrent against arbitrary law enforcement and is protected under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.

Finally, the court cemented that a right to a jury trial is intended to diminish the likelihood of judicial or prosecutorial injustice.


Yes, the  Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment guarantee the right to a jury trial in all criminal cases.


The decision of the Twenty-fifth Judicial District Court of Louisiana,  reversed and remanded.

Concurring Opinions

Justice Black and Justice Fortas concurred.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Black argues for total incorporation, claiming that the Fourteenth Amendment makes all of the Bill of Rights amendments available to the states.

He backs up his claim with records from the ratification of the amendment in Congress. Anything less than complete incorporation, he claims, would leave the enforcement of fundamental rights to the prejudices of the courts.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Fortas argued that the right to a jury trial is essential for serious crimes, but that it is not the court’s job to tell the states how such a jury trial should be conducted. States should be free to make their own regulations regarding the use of a jury trial rather than being subjected to a historical or federal norm.

Dissenting Opinions

Justice Harlan dissented.

Justice Harlan argued that the states have always been in charge of running the criminal justice system within their boundaries and modifying it to their own conditions.

Each state is required to comply with the Federal Constitution’s provisions when carrying out its task.

The Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause mandates that those procedures be fundamentally fair in every way. It does not enforce or encourage nationwide uniformity for the sake of uniformity; it does not mandate loyalty to ancient forms, and it does not impose on the State’s federal court rules unless those standards are also judged to be fundamental to basic fairness.

read the full text here

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Isack Kimaro
Isack Kimaro

Holder of Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) and Post Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. I am dedicated to providing valuable and easy-to-understand legal information for individuals at all levels of understanding. Whether you are a layperson looking to increase your knowledge, a law student striving to excel in your studies, or a practicing lawyer wanting to expand your expertise, I am here to help. I'm not creating content, I'm creating awareness to empower you to take control of your legal understanding and achieve your goals.