What will they think of next in Sacramento? Moving on from “gender identity” legislation, unwarranted incursions into psychiatric standards, and mandates that impose San Francisco sexual mores on all non-profits wishing to retain their tax-exempt status, the absurdity du jour from the state capital is a bill that seeks to extend jury service to non-citizens.
This legislation, AB 1401, passed the Assembly (45-25) on a largely party-line vote and is now proceeding to the Senate. One of the bill’s supporters, Rep. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), said the law would expand the pool of prospective jurors and help integrate immigrants into the community.
However, as Assemblywoman Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point) observed, there is currently no shortage of jurors—an assertion that appears to be confirmed by statistics that show only 165,000 jurors were seated in 2010-2011 out of an available pool of 3.2 million Californians who reported for duty.
Moreover, it seems odd to pick jury duty as a way to “integrate immigrants into the community” since this obligation typically arises only once every couple of years and since fewer than half of the Californians summoned end up waiting in a courthouse or being placed on call.
I certainly didn’t find my most recent jury experience in Riverside one that bound me closer to the community—an ordeal that began with an early-morning forty-minute drive and an around-the-building queue for a time-consuming security check that was conducted by inarticulate and unfriendly personnel who expected citizens reporting for duty to magically decode mumbled directives.
Then there was the protracted solitary confinement period in a waiting room with a few hundred other county residents that I’ll never see again—a time punctuated with repetitive announcements apparently aimed at a third grade audience.
Nor can I say I bonded with anyone or found myself brimming with civic pride during the voir dire process which several years ago actually ended up placing me on a jury—even though I had taught the defendant’s daughter in school.
Given the preceding facts and experiences, any reason for extending jury service to non-citizens appears to be more politically than practically based.
I suspect the real reason for this Democrat-backed legislation is to further diminish the distinction between citizens and non-citizens—a precursor to greasing the “pathway to citizenship” for folks who in the Los Angeles Times and Associated Press will no longer be called “illegal” immigrants.
While this proposed jury law does not apply to those individuals Jay Leno labeled “undocumented Democrats,” it will, along with driver’s licenses, welfare assistance, and schooling, serve to make citizenship a critical irrelevancy in California.