The California State Assembly voted Thursday to amend its juror law, which currently applies only to to U.S. citizens, to include “lawfully present immigrants.” The legislation is now headed to the state Senate for another vote. California is the first state to attempt such an amendment.
The amendment reads in part:
"SECTION 1. Section 203 of the Code of Civil Procedure is amended to read: 203. (a) All persons are eligible and qualified to be prospective trial jurors, except the following: (1) Persons who are not lawfully present immigrants or citizens of the United States"
California legislators who voted in favor of this preposterous law clearly forgot that American citizenship is sacred.
People come to our country both legally and illegally because our country is such a beacon of freedom and opportunity. California is home to approximately 23 percent of the nation's undocumented immigrants, accounting for 1 of every 15 of its residents. Of course, we also have those who enter legally: In 2012 alone, over 1 million people became legal permanent residents of the U.S.
America is founded upon a Constitution filled with freedoms and rights, yet her citizens also have duties and obligations. One duty is that we, as citizens, are required to serve on a jury if called upon to do so. Each year, over 30 million Americans are summoned to jury duty.
Yet federal Judge William G. Young (nominated by President Reagan) has lamented, "The American jury system is dying. It is dying faster in the federal courts than in the state courts. It is dying faster on the civil side than that on the criminal side, but it is dying. It will never go entirely, but is is already marginalized.”
I slightly disagree with Judge Young. The jury system is not dying, but it is definitely struggling. Jury duty is not fun -- in fact, it is dreadful.
If summoned, you must appear or risk being fined by the court. A summons is an order. You are required to spend your day in an often dingy room at the courthouse, guarded by a sheriff, with other people who also have 1,000 better things to do than wait to be called into the courtroom.
If you are actually selected to sit on a jury, you may miss weeks or months of work.
The compensation is laughably minimal -- you cannot even buy a pair of socks with your “paycheck.”
Still this non-glamorous duty to our country and to each other rests at the core of American values and principles. We have a constitutional right to be judged by our peers, and we have a constitutional duty to judge the accused.
BOTTOM LINE: As citizens, we have a few chores that we must perform in order to keep America the greatest country in the world.
The solution to a struggling jury system is not to give non-citizen immigrants the same benefits as American citizens. We have a right to be tried by a "jury of our peers." Non-citizens are not our peers. Instead, our elected officials must work together from across the aisle to craft a legislative solution to problems with citizens' failures to participate in jury duty.