SAN DIEGO (CBSLA.com) — Will California become the first U.S. state to allow non-citizens to serve on juries?
Assembly Bill 1401, which was passed by legislators back in April, would allow the state to widen the pool of prospective jurors by making all lawful immigrants eligible to serve.
However, the amendment would not change currently existing criteria to be eligible to serve on a jury, including being at least 18 years old and a resident in the county issuing the summons, and being proficient in English.
The bill’s author, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the legislation is critical at a time when many citizens try to get out of serving on a jury.
“You talk to people about they got a notice to serve on a jury and all, they’re complaining,” Wieckowski said. “It’s an obligation that we have.”
AB1401 is currently before the Senate after passing the Assembly in a 45-25 vote that was largely along party lines.
San Diego County Republican Assemblyman Brian Jones, one of the bill’s opponents, said allowing non-citizens to weigh in on cases involving Americans could jeopardize the integrity of the U.S. justice system.
“If you’re on trial as a U.S. citizen, you do not want your fate determined by somebody who has not pledged allegiance to this country,” said Jones.
An estimated 10 million Californians are summoned for jury duty each year and about 4 million are eligible and available to serve, according to the Judicial Council, which administers the state’s court system.
About 3.2 million complete the service, meaning they waited in a courthouse assembly room or were placed on call, the Associated Press reported.
Governor Jerry Brown and the state judicial branch have yet to take a public position on the bill.
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)