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Ward Bill to Improve Diversity for County Grand Juries Passes Senate Judiciary Committee

For immediate release:

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – Civil grand juries play an essential role as a watchdog over local government and investigating citizen complaints about public agencies and officials. 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 Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Civil grand juries are made up of ordinary citizens volunteering their time to serve their community,” said Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego). “But the current standards limit participation to those with the time and financial means to devote to this civic duty. AB 1972 will help increase diversity in the civil juror pool by ensuring they are fairly compensated for their time.”

Civil 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.

“This bill assists in assuring the representation of the diversity of any given county and/or jury and is very important to the success of our systems of courts and government,” said Lesli Caldwell Houston with the California Public Defenders Association. “Such a reflection leads to more community faith in the work being done for them and in their name.”