Into this historical tradition has come a call for change. A few days ago the State Senate in California approved a bill previously passed by the State Assembly that would allow non-citizens (albeit legal immigrants) to serve on juries in California. The bill now sits on Governor Brown's desk awaiting his signature or veto. If he signs the bill, California will become the first state in the nation to allow this. A story in the Huffington Post seemed generally negative about the merits of doing this:
“Gov. Jerry Brown should veto the bill,” the Sacramento Bee wrote in an editorial. “Like voting or holding public office, jury duty is one of the ways that citizens share in the governance of our democratic republic.”
George Skelton echoed the sentiment in a column published Wednesday by the Los Angles Times. “After all, you must be a citizen to be eligible to serve in the Legislature and write the laws,” Skelton wrote. “You have to be a citizen to be a governor who signs the laws. And you have to be a citizen to vote and elect the lawmakers. It seems incongruous to allow noncitizens to determine whether a defendant has broken a law.”I think that my sympathies lie with the Sacramento Bee and the LA Times writers on this issue. Selfishly, if there were more people in the potential pool of jurors, maybe my name wouldn't come up so often. I have served on juries and it is fascinating, but it can be time-consuming. On the other hand, I think that people should have an incentive to become citizens, and giving them a key benefit of citizenship without requiring citizenship just somehow doesn't feel right.