Judy Lin, AP, April 25, 2013
The California Assembly passed a bill on Thursday that would make the state the first in the nation to allow non-citizens who are in the country legally to serve on jury duty.
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, said his bill, AB1401, would help California widen the pool of prospective jurors and help integrate immigrants into the community.
It does not change other criteria for being eligible to serve on a jury, such as being at least 18, living in the county that is making the summons, and being proficient in English.
Democratic lawmakers who voted for the bill said there is no correlation between being a citizen and a juror, and they noted that there is no citizenship requirement to be an attorney or a judge. Republican lawmakers who opposed Wieckowski’s bill called it misguided and premature.
Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, said there is no shortage of jurors.
“Jury selection is not the problem. The problem is trial court funding,” Harkey said before the vote. “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.”
Noting that women were once kept off juries, Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said the judicial system should be changed to allow a person to be judged by their peers.
“This isn’t about affording someone who would come in as a juror something,” Perez said. “But rather understanding that the importance of the jury selection process of affording justice to the person in that courtroom.”