Councilmember/Attorney Asks Alameda County Residents to Oppose Code Change Making Juries Unfair

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By Anika Khubchandani

EMERYVILLE – Posting on his Twitter account Monday, John J. Bauters—a former trial attorney and current councilmember of the city of Emeryville—urged residents to oppose amendments to Alameda County Rule of Court 1.10, which he argues will make juries unfair, especially for people of color.

Alameda County Rule of Court 1.10 is a general administrative law which addresses the composition of jury panels. Due to the unprecedented times during the COVID-19 crisis, the rule is set to be amended.

Instead of establishing and using panels and subpanels, a master jury list will be created and “shall comprise of jurors summoned from throughout the county.” Then, panels for felony, misdemeanor, and limited and unlimited civil trials will be “drawn from the master list.”

Bauters’ previous experience as a licensed attorney compelled him to draft his own letter showcasing his disdain for amendments to Rule 1.10.

He argues that the rule must be rejected due to the “discriminatory impacts it will have on jury composition and the administration of justice.”

Since the amendment to Rule 1.10 will force prospective jurors to travel great distances for trial, these jurors will fail to reflect the communities “impacted by the alleged offense,” shared Bauters.

When he represented both civil and criminal defendants on numerous jury trial matters before the Circuit Court of Cook County in Illinois, Bauters saw first-hand a “fair and efficient” jury selection process. The jurors were typically from or near the community the alleged offense took place, making them capable of “understanding the witnesses who testified before them.”

Bauters has also experienced the complete opposite. At the Daley Center of Chicago, he witnessed a jury selection process that covered the entire county, causing the demographic of the jury pool to be completely irreflective of defendants, victims, and witnesses.

In 2011, Bauters had a 64-year old African American client who was facing eviction for allegedly violating a part of his Chicago Housing Authority lease. The prospective jurors brought in for voir dire were mostly “white, female, and retired,” said Bauters. Not only were most prospective jurors homeowners instead of renters, but also not a single person was Black nor from the same South Chicago neighborhood as the client.

The amendment to Rule 1.10 in Alameda County will lead to the same “imbalanced system of justice,” Bauters argued.

Currently, Alameda County has many branch and district courts where local matters can be heard with jury pools representative of the communities where these local matters take place. Amendments to Rule 1.10 and its master list will obliterate any possibility of having an impartial and competent jury.

The residents of Alameda County who will be directly harmed are people of color.

Bauters discloses that the court’s proposed amendment to Rule 1.10 “is nothing short of incomprehensible,” especially considering that the United States is currently facing a “moment of reckoning over centuries of institutionalized racism, implicit bias, and outright discrimination.”

The amendment will only exacerbate these injustices, he maintains.

Because “justice denied to one of us is justice denied to all of us,” Bauters is imploring residents to take a moment out of their day to reject the proposed amendments to Rule of Court 1.10.


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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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