San Francisco Panelists Endorse Measure to Increase Juror Participation, Pay Jurors More – Awaiting Gov Signature

By The Vanguard Staff

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A panel of San Francisco leaders Tuesday endorsed a state measure—AB 881, now on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk—that is modeled after the San Francisco “Be The Jury” program that raised juror pay to $100 per day to encourage jury participation by people unable to otherwise serve on juries because of the low $15 a day pay.

The San Francisco Public Defender’s office said Wednesday, “The panelists endorsed state bill AB 881 (Phil Ting, D-San Francisco)…(the governor) has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill so it can go into effect in 2024.”

The panelists previewed a sneak of “Judging Juries,” a new documentary by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Abby Ginzberg, and a discussion on jury fairness. 

The PD Office wrote the “22-minute film sheds light on the fact that criminal court juries are frequently not representative of their communities, and addresses the dire consequences of depriving Californians of juries that are fair cross-sections of their communities.”

As the PD Office explains, “The (Be The Jury) program raises juror pay for low- to moderate-income jurors from $15 to $100 a day, and has increased the racial and socioeconomic diversity of juries to better reflect the city’s demographics. 

Panelists included Ting, Public Defender Mano Raju, Treasurer José Cisneros, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, retired Alameda County Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, and former Be The Jury participant Gamage Carter.

“It was great to see so many local leaders collaborating to increase representation and fairness in jury trials. I’m thrilled that so many people came out to Manny’s for this screening so we can educate more people about the importance of participating in jury duty,” said Ginzberg, who said another screening of “Judging Juries” will be held Oct. 25 at the c.

“It’s critical to empower more people from diverse backgrounds to serve on juries because too many people who are facing criminal charges don’t trust that they can get a fair trial because no one on the jury looks like them or comes from their communities,” said Raju. “Each trial benefits from having the collective wisdom of a fair cross section of the community in the jury pool.”

“California hasn’t raised its jury pay for 50 years,” said Ting, adding, “We cannot expect people to carry out their civic duty when the state only pays $15 a day. Providing fair compensation of $100 a day to those who need it is a win-win for those who want to serve and those who deserve to see a better cross section of the community in the jury box.”

“Participating in civic life should not create a financial hardship, which is why I’m so proud that our Financial Justice Project has been able to put our skills and resources into setting up Be The Jury San Francisco and helping to lead the statewide effort,” said Cisneros.

“One of the best ways to increase fairness in our justice system is to ensure that those facing criminal charges are afforded a jury of their peers, and offering fair compensation for jury service only increases the opportunities for people to serve their communities,” said Harbin-Forte.

“Serving on a jury is important because everyone in the community can contribute their own experiences that can flip the jury’s whole perspective on what actually could have happened in a given situation,” said Carter, who received a Be The Jury stipend for serving on a jury in San Francisco. 

Carter added. “Being fairly compensated for jury duty changed the experience because it allowed me to serve without having to worry about what bills were or weren’t going to get paid that week.”

“Ensuring equal access for all community members to serve on juries regardless of income will strengthen our criminal justice system and ensure that verdicts represent our communities and values,” said Jenkins.  “People from lower income and diverse communities most often are directly impacted by crime and most often unable to serve because of financial hardship. Be The Jury rights this wrong.”

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