Friday, September 6, 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown Mulling Over Bill Extending Eligibility for Jury Service to Lawful Permanent Residents

Ealier this year, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill  1401, which would extend jury eligibility to lawful permanent residents.  The bill is awaiting signature by Governor Jerry Brown.

The bill has generated opposition from Republicans, a number of California newpapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, and others.

Along with Erwin Chemerinsky, I have argued in support of the bill, which would increase community representation in -- and democratize -- the jury pool.  We argued that:

"Allowing noncitizens who are legal immigrants to serve on juries is a desirable reform in a society devoted to judgment by one's peers and juries that represent a cross-section of the community. Assembly Bill 1401, passed overwhelmingly by the California Assembly, would do just this, permitting legal immigrants, as well as U.S. citizens, to serve on juries. The Assembly Committee on the Judiciary highlighted the laudable goals behind the expansion of eligibility for jury service: `jury service is understood to be a democratizing force and a societal obligation.'"

A number of California law deans and professors wrote to Governor Brown in support of passage of the AB 1401.  See Download Letter to Governor Brown

In a law review article published earlier this year, I raised the possibility of noncitizen jury service as one possible jury reform that might help improve impartiality in the adjudication of hate crimes against Latinos and immigramts :

"Approximately thirteen percent (forty million people) of the U.S. population is foreign-born, and fifty-six percent of this group are not U.S. citizens. In the last decade, nearly half of the largest 100 metropolitan areas in the United States saw fifty percent increases in their foreign-born populations; nine metropolitan areas experienced an increase in the immigrant population of more than 100% . . . . 

Noncitizens today cannot serve on American juries. This has not always been the rule. At one time, English law, and the law of some U.S. states, authorized juries in disputes between noncitizens to be comprised of an equal number of citizens and noncitizens. The aim was to attempt to provide for impartial adjudication of disputes involving foreigners.

In important respects, jury service, like voting, epitomizes the nation’s robust commitment to democratic institutions. Until the early twentieth century, noncitizens in many states enjoyed the right to vote. Several municipalities in modern times have returned to allowing noncitizen residents to vote in school district elections.

Allowing noncitizens who meet certain requirements—such as a certain duration of residency—to serve on juries would allow for juries to be far more representative of the community, which includes noncitizens, than juries currently are. More inclusive juror eligibility also would allow a larger percentage of the Latina/o population to be eligible for jury service. Better community representation also might help promote the impartiality of juries as well as improve the perceived legitimacy of their decisions, a particularly important matter in racially charged hate crime prosecutions." (footnotes omitted).


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