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Bill to Increase Compensation and Improve Diversity for Civil Grand Juries Passes Assembly Committee

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO,CA) – Civil grand juries play a key role in holding municipal government bodies accountable, but far too often, racial and ethnic minorities are under-represented in their makeup. Today, Assembly Bill 1972 authored by Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) to amend statutory requirements to improve diversity within the grand jury selection process and increase the per diem compensation to reflect current rates passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee. 

“Civil grand juries are one of the most misunderstood elements of the criminal justice system, but are absolutely essential to ensuring governments are transparent and working for the people,” said Assemblymember Ward. “Because civil grand juries are largely voluntary and under-compensated, they are not always representative. AB 1972 will help increase diversity in the juror pool and ensure they 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.

“As public defenders and members of the community, we have watched as communities have been devastated and outraged by the decisions of all white grand juries that failed to reflect the economic and racial makeup of the communities that they were selected to serve," said Lesli Houston with the California Public Defenders Association. "Making sure that grand juries reflect the demographics of the local county would lead to greater confidence in the decisions reached by grand juries, and ultimately in the criminal justice system.”