Mon, Apr

Jury Duty is a Pain. Non-Citizens Win!

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-I do not understand the reaction to Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of a measure to permit non-citizens to serve on juries. 

For that matter, I do not understand the purpose of the legislation. 

The legislature determined that non-citizens should have the right to serve on juries, as though that were some great privilege of citizenship. And Brown’s veto said that they don’t deserve that privilege. 

Huh? What privilege? 


This fails to pass the Golden Rule test. If I were a non citizen, and someone wanted to make me eligible for jury duty, I’d say: Do you have something against me, bro? 

Non-citizens, like citizens, have lives. Requiring them to respond to jury summons seems like something less than friendly. Jury service, even under the improved rules that now prevail, is a pain and disruptive to work and life. In my experience, you have to miss your job, travel to an unfamiliar place, pay for parking, and rejuggle appointments and childcare. 

This is a weird sort of offering to make to non-citizens to show they are included. I suspect non-citizens would prefer a T-shirt or a coffee mug instead. Or they could just be left alone when it comes to jury service – the happy result of Brown’s veto. 

Jury duty has become a poll tax; because the voter registration rolls are used to draw jurors, many people won’t register to vote. Recent polling finds that fewer than one in five Americans approve of jury duty; Charles Manson has similar approval ratings. 

Indeed, the ineligibility of noncitizens for jury service seems like a nice little privilege. Maybe they should let citizens petition for this status.


(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It [UC Press, 2010]. This column was posted first at FoxandHoundsDaily.com






Vol 11 Issue 85

Pub: Oct 22, 2013