Georgia v. McCollum, 505 U.S. 42, 12 (1992)

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Cite as: 505 U. S. 42 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

physician hired by State to provide medical care to prisoners was state actor because doctor was hired to fulfill State's constitutional obligation to attend to necessary medical care of prison inmates). The State cannot avoid its constitutional responsibilities by delegating a public function to private parties. Cf. Terry v. Adams, 345 U. S. 461 (1953) (private political party's determination of qualifications for primary voters held to constitute state action).

Finally, the Edmonson Court indicated that the courtroom setting in which the peremptory challenge is exercised intensifies the harmful effects of the private litigant's discriminatory act and contributes to its characterization as state action. These concerns are equally present in the context of a criminal trial. Regardless of who precipitated the jurors' removal, the perception and the reality in a criminal trial will be that the court has excused jurors based on race, an outcome that will be attributed to the State.8

Respondents nonetheless contend that the adversarial relationship between the defendant and the prosecution negates the governmental character of the peremptory challenge. Respondents rely on Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U. S. 312 (1981), in which a defendant sued, under 42 U. S. C. 1983, the public defender who represented him. The defendant claimed that the public defender had violated his constitutional rights in failing to provide adequate representation. This Court determined that a public defender does not qualify as a state actor when engaged in his general representation of a criminal defendant.9

8 Indeed, it is common practice not to reveal the identity of the challenging party to the jurors and potential jurors, thus enhancing the perception that it is the court that has rejected them. See Underwood, Ending Race Discrimination in Jury Selection: Whose Right Is It, Anyway?, 92 Colum. L. Rev. 725, 751, n. 117 (1992).

9 Although Polk County determined whether or not the public defender's actions were under color of state law, as opposed to whether or not they constituted state action, this Court subsequently has held that the

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