Skelton: Why widen juror pool beyond citizens?

  • 2/25/2007: B5: In the jury assembly room at the Sonoma County Courthouse in Santa Rosa, potential jurors receive instructions about the selection process.

    PC: News lede/--1 of 2--In the Jury assembly room at the Sonoma County Courthouse in Santa Rosa, Wednesday February 21, 2007 potential jurors listen to instructions about the selection process for jury duty. Internet Wi-fi was set up in the building to help those called in from work. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2007

Bills are cascading out of the Legislature in free-fall as lawmakers race to adjournment for the year, most measures headed for the governor with little debate.

It's the annual sprint to "do something" — to make a mark, regardless of how faint.

Not all the bills, however, are as innocuous as they're treated.

One such measure, granted final passage last week by the state Assembly, would substantially change California's court system by allowing noncitizen legal immigrants to serve on juries.

Nowhere else in America is a noncitizen permitted to be a juror — not in any state, not in any federal court.

The bill, AB 1401, was discussed on the Assembly floor for only seven minutes before being sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on a party-line vote, 48 to 28, with most Democrats in favor, all Republicans opposed.

It often amazes me how issues that really shouldn't have a partisan hue wind up being voted on as if they're either blue or red.

There's no indication how the Democratic governor feels about opening up juries to noncitizens, or even if he has thought about it.

In the Assembly, the presiding Democrat initially called for the vote even before any opponent could speak.

But freshman Assemblyman Rocky Ch?ez, R-Oceanside, insisted.

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