California legislature wants less white juries

The state of California is, once again, taking aim at perceived systemic racism.

Breitbart reports that the California legislature has passed a measure to diversify juries.  

The problem

According to state Sen. Scott Wiener (D), the California “jury pool is whiter and wealthier than our state is.”

“Right now, we are denying people the right to a true jury of their peers, because our juries are not demographically representative,” Weiner claimed.

In other words, jurors in California are apparently too white in the opinion of California politicians. So, they came up with SB582 to address this “problem.”

The bill makes changes to the current jury selection process so as to ensure that a jury is “inclusive of a representative cross-section of the population of the area served by the court.”

The bill

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the problem – overly white juries – stems from the current juror system, which “draws courtroom panels that decide criminal cases and lawsuits largely from residents who are registered to vote or have a driver’s license or identification card from the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

This, says the bill’s supporters, results in unrepresentative white juries because “people of color and poorer residents are less likely to register to vote or drive a car, leaving the pool overstocked with white jurors who are better-off financially.”

The new bill seeks to fix this problem by drawing jurors from everyone who files income tax returns.

The Chronicle reports Wiener as saying that “the state’s tax-filing database includes a broader universe of people, including those who claim the earned-income tax credit, an assistance program for low-income filers.”

What now?

The bill passed the California Senate last Monday by a vote of 30-5. Now, the bill will go to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). He has until September 30th to decide whether or not to sign off on it, and, considering his track record, it would be surprising if he didn’t.

Critics of the bill argue that it will alter California’s jury selection process for no real benefit. It also isn’t clear how making sure that a jury has x number of black people, x number of Latinos, x number of whites, etc. helps to eradicate systemic racism. If this is a real phenomenon, then the bill would seem to perpetuate it, and if it is not a real phenomenon, the bill creates it by literally building racial criteria into our legal system.

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