Let non-citizens serve on juries?

by Walter Olson on May 22, 2013

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), the sponsor of a bill in the California legislature, thinks jury service would help advance the assimilation of immigrants by exposing them to an important civic process. Ben Boychuk, at City Journal, doesn’t agree, quoting political scientist Edward Erler: “The idea that legal immigrants can learn to become citizens through jury service is a dangerous experiment on the liberties of American citizens.”


1 Leland D. Davis 05.22.13 at 12:15 pm

I kind of agree with the author that it is a bad idea, because many immigrants don’t really understand our civic traditions well enough to serve properly as jurors. That said, a professor (biochemist) I knew who came from India delayed gaining US citizenship for a number of years, until he was involved with his local parent teacher association, and a county councilman he was talking to about the schools asked him about citizenship. He would have been great on a jury panel well before he naturalized. I guess it all depends on which non-citizen residents you know.

2 John Fembup 05.22.13 at 1:08 pm

As Jay Leno remarked a few weeks ago, this is just another example of work that non-citizens may end up doing, because Americans won’t.

3 John Burgess 05.22.13 at 1:29 pm

Were Assemblyman Wieckowski to face criminal trial, I’m sure he’d be comfortable with a jury comprised of non-citizens. I mean, if they get it wrong, he only has to do time in jail, right? So what’s the harm?

4 Jamie R 05.22.13 at 2:33 pm

From the linked article: “The most important thing is that legal aliens will not sufficiently understand the intricacies of the rule of law, especially due process and equal protection,”

There’s only minimal evidence that citizens understand the rule of law. I don’t see how immigrants could do worse.

5 Jim Collins 05.22.13 at 3:34 pm

I’ve never figured out why Jury Duty isn’t tied to unemployment benefits? Let it count as a search contact. They are already being paid, just cover parking and meals.

6 Walter Olson 05.22.13 at 4:22 pm

The usual premise is that jury service gives you a cross-section, and it becomes less of a cross-section if one begins consciously over-representing persons on unemployment, a group that might on average have particular leanings favorable toward some sorts of litigant/defendant or unfavorable toward others.

7 Ron Miller 05.28.13 at 11:33 am

Your biochemist friend would be wonderful, to be sure. I’m curious as to which immigrants to you think would be ill-suited?

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