By The Vanguard Staff
SACRAMENTO, CA – Legislation was introduced at the State Capitol here this week designed to make federal juries in California more diverse and representative of the public, building on a measure that did the same for state juries a few years ago.
Introduced by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senate Bill 271, the Fair Federal Juries Act, would expand federal court jury pools by drawing from state tax filing lists, creating “more diverse and demographically representative juries,” according to Wiener’s office.
Wiener’s office points out that, currently, Federal Jury Commissioners “pull potential jurors from lists of those who are registered to vote, and those who have driver’s licenses or identification cards – similar to what California Jury Commissioners did prior to SB 592 becoming law.”
Studies, supporters of the bill maintain, indicate that by pulling only from those two lists, “courts are deprived of thousands of eligible prospective jurors, and that racial minorities are underrepresented on juries. This underrepresentation denies civil and criminal litigants of a jury pool that truly reflects their communities at large.”
The lawmaker’s staff explained “jurors are currently selected from narrower lists that are more likely to skew wealthier, whiter and less diverse.”
But SB 271, like Wiener’s SB 592 in 2020, allows possible jurors to be chosen from state tax filers, in addition to just registered voters and licensed drivers or identification card holders, which limit those who can serve as jurors.
The announcement by Wiener’s office argued that to “ensure juries – the backbone of our justice system – are actually reflective of their communities, it’s critical that Federal Jury Commissioners be allowed to include a broader, more representative list of Californians as they select jurors.”
“Right now, state courts choose from a larger and more diverse list of potential jurors than federal courts operating in California do,” said Senator Scott Wiener.
He added, “We need to expand the work we did on SB 592 to ensure that the federal juries in California can truly reflect the diversity of our state. People deserve a fair trial heard by a jury of their peers. SB 271 will help us get closer to that ideal.”
Wiener suggests that “SB 271 is an important piece of the puzzle of how we can remake our criminal justice system to be fairer and less racially and socioeconomically biased. More representative juries lead to a more equitable criminal justice system, where trials are heard by a more representative cross section of our community.”