SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday vetoed legislation that would have made California the first state in the nation to allow legal immigrants who are not citizens to serve on juries, deciding it went too far.
The governor, who in recent days approved bills providing driver’s permits and the ability to practice law to immigrants who are in the country illegally, drew the line at having non-citizens on juries.
“Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship,” Brown wrote in his 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.”
He also vetoed legislation that would have required local city managers and city council members to undergo training in financial management, saying it would require a significant investment by the state, and the cities should pay for it themselves.
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 bill, AB 1401, by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, divided the Legislature, with Republicans including Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine arguing that serving as a juror is a special calling that warrants the special standing that citizenship provides. Other countries have different standards for guilt, innocence and due process, he noted.
“Allowing non-citizens to serve on juries threatens the integrity of our judicial system,” Anderson said. “In this country, we believe in due process and you’re innocent until proven guilty. Having non-citizens on a jury will deny people from getting a fair trial.”