Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Should jury duty extend to non-citizens?

A California bill would add non-citizens to jury list

How do you view a jury duty summons when you spot it in the mail?

A. With dread. Who has time for jury duty?

B. With excitement. You love watching courtroom drama TV shows like “Law and Order” and “The Good Wife.”

California bill could set precedent

An interesting bill regarding jury duty is pending in California that would expand the jury pool to non-citizens. If approved, it could set a precedent for others states grappling with lack of jurors.

To be sure, the bill is controversial. Supporters cite the need for defendants to be judged by a jury of their peers and note that non-citizens already participate in the courts, as attorneys, judges and witnesses. Critics say jury duty should be reserved for citizens only.

What do you think?

Florida juror requirements

In Florida, the law says that you must meet the following requirements to serve as a juror.

  • Must be a citizen of the United States
Must be a legal resident of Florida 
Must be a legal resident of the county in which you are summoned 

  • Must be at least 18 years old, AND 
Must have a valid Florida Drivers License OR a valid Florida Identification Card

You cannot serve if you are a convicted felon or presently being prosecuted for a crime.

California's juror requirements

California’s juror laws have similar requirements and exclusions, except that they exclude anybody who don’t know enough English. If passed, California’s AB1401 would still require all jurors to meet all other requirements.

The analysis of the California bill notes that expanding the juror pool to legal residents who haven’t yet become citizens would help courts meet the need to find more jurors. “Jury duty is a societal obligation that many see as an inconvenience, if not a burden, and it is well known that courts regularly struggle to find enough prospective jurors to meet their needs.”

Florida juror problems

Florida has had problems finding enough jurors in certain instances. Just two months ago, Hendry County court officials complained to the press that the courts were immobilized by the lack of juror turnout. In one instance, only eight out of 300 people summoned for jury duty appeared on the day they were summoned. Consequently, court officials said they would begin enforcing penalties. A first offense would result in a $100 fine and a second jury summons. A second offense would result in a $500 fine, a jail sentence and a suspended license. 

Photo credit: Daniel Oines

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