Nearly one year ago, we wrote to inform our readers that the United States Supreme Court does not recognize the right to sit on a jury as fundamental. This means that states can bar men and women from taking part in the adjudicative process for a myriad of reasons; the ban is known as Felon Jury Exclusion.
In December 2018, we reported that in California, people with a felony on their records are not allowed to sit on juries in most cases; the same is true in 30 other states and all federal courthouses. However, California does permit felons to practice law.
California has taken a second look at its criminal justice policies in recent years, including giving people who have served their time the opportunity to participate in the adjudicative process. Last month, Governor Gavin Newsom signed several criminal justice bills into law that are meant to reform California’s criminal justice system.
Assembly Bill (AB 1076) creates an automated record clearance system for low-level offenses; AB 484 ends a mandatory minimum for certain drug crimes; SB 22 speeds up rape kit processing on new cases, preventing future backlogs; and, AB 917 expedites the victim certification process to obtain T-Visas or U-Visas.
Among the 25 criminal justice reform bills signed by Gov. Newsom was Senate Bill 310 by Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley). The law permits a person with a felony conviction to serve on a jury. Unless an individual is on a form of supervision (i.e., parole or probation) for a felony conviction, or are a registered sex offender.
“I am signing more than two dozen bills that give hope to those that have earned a second chance in our communities, and also support victims of crime,” said Governor Newsom on his website. “These bills show a new path to ensure our state moves closer toward a more equitable criminal justice system.”
A Second Chance for Some Felons
SB 310, also known as “The Right to a Jury of Your Peers,” lets people with a prior felony conviction serve on juries in California for the first time, according to East Bay Times. Now, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma are the only states with lifetime bans for people with felony convictions from ever serving on a jury.
“It’s easy to take for granted the notion of a jury of your peers, but in reality, if you’re black and a man, it’s almost impossible. Why? Existing law excludes 30% of California’s black male residents from ever serving on a jury,” Skinner said. “SB 310 rights that wrong by giving those with a former felony conviction the ability to be at the heart of a fair and impartial judicial process.”
Nationally, one in three African-American men have a felony conviction on their record; 12 percent of adult African-Americans have spent time in California prisons.
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower if you require legal assistance. Attorney Brower has extensive experience and can bring about a favorable outcome for you or your family member.