Legislation Calls for Federal Jury Pools to be More Diverse and Demographically Representative

Author: Cynthia Speegle

Guest Editor: Grace Shuman

Related Articles: California

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April 4, 2022 4:43pm

                                                                                                 

  1. Introduction

State Bill (“S.B.”) 271, the Fair Federal Juries Act, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 12, 2022.  This bill was written to pave the way for more diverse jury pools in federal cases.  While this bill died in Senate, the intent behind it is still important and will serve as a guide for future efforts.[i]  Thanks to efforts like this bill, there will someday be better representation in juries throughout the country.  Juries should be representative of the communities the jurors are from.

 

  1. S.B. 271

S.B. 271 required the Franchise Tax Board (“FTB”) to furnish a list of resident state tax return data with each federal district court in California.[ii]  This would not have been automatic.  Each federal district court would have had to enter into a data protection agreement with the FTB.[iii]  The data protection agreement would mean the information provided to the federal district court should not be furnished to or used by any person other than an employee or contractor of the district court and used only in a form and manner safeguarding the information as required by the FTB.[iv]  This would mean each district court would need to individually request access to the larger jury pool.

Under the current law, eligible jurors are selected from records from the Department of Motor Vehicles and/or voter registration rolls.[v]  San Diego federal courts currently source potential jurors only from voter registration rolls.[vi]  The change would have built upon S.B. 592, introduced by Senator Scott Weiner in 2020.[vii]  S.B. 592 required the FTB to furnish to the jury commissioner of each county a list of resident state tax filers to be used as a source list for potential jurors.[viii]

 

III. Potential Impact

The current method of identifying potential jurors under-represents people of color.[ix]  Limiting potential jurors to registered voters or those with driver’s licenses or government ID cards omits thousands of eligible potential jurors.[x]  Limiting the potential jury pool further to only a single source, like San Diego federal courts, omits even more potential jurors, especially people of color as they are less likely to register to vote.[xi]

There is currently no data to show what the impact of S.B. 592 in California would have been.  However, research shows diverse juries benefit civil trials.[xii]  A diverse jury lends legitimacy to a jury verdict and the judicial system as a whole in the eyes of the public.[xiii]

Additionally, diverse juries result in jurors making fewer factual mistakes in their deliberations.[xiv] This could lead to more verdicts based on the analysis of facts and less based in emotion.  In his book Nuclear Verdicts®: Defending Justice for All, Robert Tyson points out how plaintiff’s lawyers will often play on juror emotions, usually anger, to drive up damage awards, creating Nuclear Verdicts®.[xv]  Diverse juries could help reduce the ability of plaintiff’s lawyers to exploit the emotions of jurors.

 

 

 


[i] SB-271 Juries., California Legislative Information, (Feb. 1, 2022), https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billStatusClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220SB271.

[ii] SB-271, Cal. Leg., Reg Sess. (2022).

[iii] SB-271, Cal. Leg., Reg Sess. (2022).

[iv] Senate Committee on Appropriations Fiscal Summaries, SB 271 (Wiener) – Juries, January 18, 2022.

[v] Cal. Code of Civ. P. § 197.

[vi] Kristina Davis, Legal Community Urges San Diego Federal Court to Make Jury Pool More Inclusive, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/story/2021-01-27/federal-court-jury-summons-inclusive (last visited March 27, 2021).

[vii] Dave Simpson, Calif. Bill Aimed at Diversifying Federal Juries Advances, https://www.law360.com/pulse/articles/1455419/calif-bill-aimed-at-diversifying-federal-juries-advances, (last visited March 27, 2022).

[viii] SB-592, Cal. Leg., Reg. Sess. (2020).

[ix] Dave Simpson, Calif. Bill Aimed at Diversifying Federal Juries Advances, https://www.law360.com/pulse/articles/1455419/calif-bill-aimed-at-diversifying-federal-juries-advances, (last visited March 27, 2022).

[x] Dave Simpson, Calif. Bill Aimed at Diversifying Federal Juries Advances, https://www.law360.com/pulse/articles/1455419/calif-bill-aimed-at-diversifying-federal-juries-advances, (last visited March 27, 2022).

[xi] Kristina Davis, Legal Community Urges San Diego Federal Court to Make Jury Pool More Inclusive, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/story/2021-01-27/federal-court-jury-summons-inclusive (last visited March 27, 2021).

[xii] Valerie P. Hans, Challenges to Achieving Fairness in Civil Jury Selection, 2021 Forum for State and Appellate Court Judges, https://www.poundinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-Pound-Forum-Paper-Valerie-Hans.pdf

[xiii] Valerie P. Hans, Challenges to Achieving Fairness in Civil Jury Selection, 2021 Forum for State and Appellate Court Judges, https://www.poundinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-Pound-Forum-Paper-Valerie-Hans.pdf

[xiv] Valerie P. Hans, Challenges to Achieving Fairness in Civil Jury Selection, 2021 Forum for State and Appellate Court Judges, https://www.poundinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/2021-Pound-Forum-Paper-Valerie-Hans.pdf

[xv] Robert F. Tyson, Jr., Nuclear Verdicts Defending Justice For All (2020).

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