California Bill Would Allow Non-Citizens to Sit on Juries

| by Michael Allen
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The California Assembly passed a bill, 45-25, on Thursday that would allow non-citizens, who are in the U.S. legally, to serve on juries. Most of the "yes" voted were Democrats.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D), who sponsored bill AB1401, claims this proposal would provide more jurors and integrate immigrants into society, reports the Associated Press.

However, jurors would still have to be at least 18, live in the county of the jury summons and be proficient in the English language.

"Jury selection is not the problem. The problem is trial court funding," said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R). "I hope we can focus on that. Let's not break something, it's not broken now. Let's not whittle away at what is reserved for U.S. citizens. There's a reason for it."

The pay for jury service is notoriously low in many counties in California and people often cannot afford to lose work to sit for days or weeks on a jury. In San Diego and Placer Counties, the pay is only $15 a day, far below the poverty level.

"This isn't about affording someone who would come in as a juror something," said Assembly Speaker John Perez (D). "But rather understanding that the importance of the jury selection process of affording justice to the person in that courtroom."

An estimated 10 million people in California are summoned for jury duty, but only 4 million are eligible and available, according to the Judicial Council, which oversees the state's court system.

The bill now moves on to the State Senate.

Sources: Associated Press and