Debate Continues On Civil Jury Access, Reductions

Money is one resource that forces justice rationing, but jury time is another. When Gov. Brown recently vetoed a jury overhaul bill, the focus was rightly on the issue of allowing non-citizens to serve on the panels. Less reported were issues that would reduce the jury size in some criminal cases and virtually all civil trials.
The Sacramento Bee had a recent editorial calling for jury reform and offering some numbers. Says the newspaper: “Statewide approximately 10 million jurors are summoned for service, but only 4 million of those are available and qualified for the task. And even fewer, 1.5 million prospective jurors, actually report to courts. Courts struggle to find sufficient numbers of jurors to serve and the cost of jury service to the courts and to those who serve has become a real strain.” 
In a reform idea supported by the Bee, “… in all civil cases, the number of jurors would be reduced from 12 to eight… it’s estimated that the changes proposed would save beleaguered California courts an estimated $5.1 million annually in direct costs. Community costs, which include the loss of productivity, wages and business activity, would be reduced by approximately $174 million annually.”
But the idea is not really to save money. The fact is that “jury time” is a resource that’s in short supply, and the battle for access mirrors the sorts of decisions forced by the lack of funding. Read the newspaper’s opinion, and other California editorials gathered by the Associated Press, here