Assemblymember Ward Bill to Improve Diversity for County Grand Juries Heads to Senate

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO,CA) – In each of California’s 58 counties, a group of ordinary citizens voluntarily takes an oath to serve as civil grand jurors to investigate and hold municipal government bodies accountable. But far too often, racial and ethnic minorities are under-represented in their makeup. Today, Assembly Bill 1972 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 Floor and now heads to the Senate for action. 

“Civil grand juries are absolutely essential to ensuring government transparency, but they need to be reflective of the communities they serve,” said Assemblymember Ward (D-San Diego). “AB 1972 will help increase diversity in the civil juror pool by ensuring 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.

“Our grand jury process is driven by everyday Californians, who volunteer their time to serve and ensure that their local government is responsive and fair to their community," said Cynthia Castillo with Western Center on Law and Poverty. "California’s deep racial disparities in access to justice, income and wealth have resulted in a gulf of opportunities for people of color to serve their civil duty. AB 1972 addresses those disparities by making key changes to provide equal access to grand jury service.”