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Assemblymember Ward Introduces Bill to Improve Diversity in Civil Grand Juries

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO,CA) – Civil grand juries play an important role in California’s criminal justice system and help provide municipal oversight. However, they are not always representative of the demographics of a particular area. Assemblymember Chris Ward introduced AB 1972 to amend statutory requirements to include gender, age, and race and ethnicity to empaneling judges to improve diversity within the grand jury selection process. The bill will also adjust the per diem compensation to reflect current rates, helping to attract a more diverse pool of candidates. 

“Currently, the role of a grand juror is largely voluntary with very little compensation being given daily for their civic service,” said Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego). “This leads to disproportionate representation within courtrooms. AB 1972 will help increase transparency around the process of jury selection and ensure jurors are fairly compensated for their time.”

Grand juries are administered through the California Superior Court and are treated as independent bodies. While current state statute requires jury commissioners to note the geographic makeup of a jury pool, there are no further requirements that would help judges create a more diverse grand jury based on race, gender age, or any other demographic characteristics.

“Juries play a critical role in the lives of Californians involved in the legal system — particularly people of color and those living in poverty who are over-policed,” said Cynthia Castillo, a policy advocate with Western Center on Law and Poverty. “We need to address bias and lack of diversity in all parts of the legal system, but right now juries are disproportionately made up of white retirees who can afford to take time off to serve. AB 1792 will ensure people are fairly compensated when they serve so jury duty is more accessible for Californians with low incomes.”