Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill Monday that would have made California the first state in the country to allow non-citizens to serve on juries.
"Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship," Brown wrote in a veto message. "This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don't think that's right."
Brown drew that line, just days after he signed two other bills that allowed undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses and practice law.
Carlos Barrios, a Los Angeles criminal defense and immigration lawyer, told KPCC he was disappointed with the veto because he says diverse juries with various life experiences make for fairer verdicts.
"You're sending the wrong message for one," Barrios said. "It's not a reflection of society. So let's say I'm accused [of] a crime. In America, I'm not guilty yet. And I should have the right to be judged by my peers. How can it be possible for me to be judged by my peers if the only people sitting up there are the people who cannot connect with me?"
The bill got little attention from district attorney and public defender offices. But the Fair Immigration Reform Movement opposed it, saying jury duty should be a right reserved for citizens.
"Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), said he was disappointed that the governor vetoed the jury bill. 'Lawful permanent immigrants are part of the fabric of our communities, and they benefit from the protections of our laws, so it is fair and just that they be asked to share in the obligation to do jury duty, just as they serve in our courts, schools, police departments and armed forces,' Wieckowski said. 'I don't see anything wrong with imposing this civic obligation on immigrants who can spend the rest of their lives in the United States.'
"The jury bill had been one of the most controversial measures put on the governor's desk, with Democratic lawmakers saying it would diversify the jury pool and allow noncitizens facing trial to have a jury that includes their peers.
"'I believe that allowing noncitizens who are lawfully present in the United States is a desirable reform for California,' said Ingrid Eagly, an assistant professor at the UCLA School of Law. 'I do not see any legal obstacles to the inclusion of noncitizens on juries in California.'"
The AP reports that the bill would have still required jurors to be at least 18, live in the county making the summons and be proficient in English.
Over at The Atlantic, they take up the intellectual conversation over this question. They point to three reasons why jury duty should be a privilege of citizens. This is most thought-provoking:
"The badge of citizenship marks individuals as belonging to a national community that guarantees certain liberties and opportunity in exchange for democratic participation. As the Supreme Court stated in Powers v. Ohio, jury duty 'affords ordinary citizens a valuable opportunity to participate in a process of government, an experience fostering, one hopes, a respect for law. Indeed, with the exception of voting, for most citizens the honor and privilege of jury duty is their most significant opportunity to participate in the democratic process.'"