Non-citizens could serve on California juries under bill passed Fri

SACRAMENTO, California Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:51am EDT

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SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - Immigrants who are legally in the United States but not citizens would be allowed to serve on juries in California under a bill passed by the state legislature on Friday.

As written, the bill does not expressly require all lawful permanent residents to serve on juries, but many lawmakers said they assumed it would become mandatory.

The bill would allow immigrants to be included in the pool of potential jurors if they were permanent legal residents of the United States and live in California. Since those called for jury duty are expected to serve, some lawmakers said that right could become an obligation.

Governor Jerry Brown has not yet said whether he will sign the measure, which supporters said would increase the pool of people available to serve on juries while also increasing the rights and responsibilities of immigrants.

The bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, likened the rules disqualifying immigrants who are permanent residents from jury service to long-discarded laws that kept blacks and women from serving.

"What we look for in jurors are characteristics like integrity, honesty, impartiality and the willingness to listen to all the evidence before coming to a conclusion," said Wieckowski, who represents the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Fremont. "Lawful permanent residents, who live in the same county and speak English, can serve effectively as jurors."

But Rocky Chavez, a Republican who represents part of San Diego County, said allowing non-citizens on juries could deprive defendants of their right to have their case decided by a jury of their peers.

"Not everywhere is innocent until proven guilty," Chavez said during debate on the bill. "In some countries, it's guilty until proven innocent."

Such cultural differences could affect how an immigrant viewed a case, he said. In addition, he said, immigrants who have chosen to live in the United States without taking on the mantle of citizenship might find jury service onerous.

"I have lived overseas," he said. "I wouldn't want to serve on a jury in Japan."

The bill passed on a largely party line vote with three Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Bill Trott and Ken Wills)

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Comments (3)
FatherJames wrote:
…While there are many fine immigrants… I would not want to have non-citizens decide my fate. The laws in many countries are absolutely alien to our concept of justice. If you are in a Japanese prison and ask for a lawyer… you can get one… if the warden thinks that you need one. In Pakistan a woman who reports that she was raped and has less than five male witnesses gets arrested for adultery…
…In some democratic countries the don’t have a jury system. In many countries you have to prove your innocence. This is a political stunt… and anybody, of any party, that would push this is morally bankrupt… or at least has no idea of what “Jury of your peers” means.

Aug 24, 2013 3:32am EDT  --  Report as abuse
hawkeye19 wrote:
This vile, treasonous law should be tossed out and condemned by the first appellate court it reaches.

Aug 24, 2013 10:47am EDT  --  Report as abuse
JeromeJones wrote:
What a waste of taxpayers time. Rather than solving problems this deutsche nozzle Bob Wieckowski is causing problems for a need that doesn’t exist. There are plenty of capable people already in California who can sit on juries. Next we will be having foreign jurors serving on cases involving foreign nationals because they will demand to have a jury of their peers. I would never allow a non citizen to judge me in a court of law. Case would be thrown out. Maybe that is the intention of this dude Bob Wieckowski. Bob Wieckowski must have some pretty dumb people in his area to allow a moron like him to represent them in California state legislature.

Aug 24, 2013 6:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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