A jury of their peers

The jury system is based on the idea that someone could be judged by their peers. In a state as demographically diverse as California, which also needs more juries, it is natural for this group to expand to include legal permanent residents.

AB 1401, a bill that is waiting for Governor Brown’s signature, is a departure from the principle that serving as a juror is a duty reserved for citizens. If enacted, California will become the first state in the country with a law like this.

It makes sense for our state to include legal residents, since they account for a significant percentage of the population and can ease the need for jurors—a task that not many are enthusiastic about.

At the same time, using the word “peers” does not mean that jurors must have the same gender, race and economic situation as the defendant, to mention a few characteristics. But they should somehow reflect the area’s social makeup.

While it is true that native-born or naturalized American citizens could be more familiar with the judicial system than a legal resident, in this case there is nothing that can’t be taught or learned.

Therefore, the fears of Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) are unfounded. He said that legal residents will decide cases as if they were in their country of origin and that taking an oath to become a citizen is essential to knowing the basics of how the U.S. legal system works.

Legal residents are not recent arrivals. They have been in the country for years and it is fair for them to also shoulder the responsibilities and duties that they can tackle as members of society.