Proposed Jury Service Change Slammed by Alameda Public Defender

Serving on a jury could soon get much more inconvenient in Alameda County, and Public Defender Brendon Woods is not happy about it.

Under a proposed change, county residents would be required to report for jury duty at any courthouse in the county, not just the one closest to their home. The system is already set up that way for criminal felony trials. But the change would apply to civil and misdemeanor trials as well.

“This change most impacts low-income jurors, because they are more likely to depend on public transportation to get around, as well as have jobs that don’t accommodate jury service. It will make it more difficult to get a jury of one’s peers,” said Woods. That would make minorities and low-income earners less likely to serve on juries than they already are.

“It’s yet another way the criminal justice system oppresses those least able to fight back. Instead of making it more difficult for people to serve, the courts should be making things easier," the public defender added.

Alameda consists of 821 square miles, so the proposed change could have a significant impact. A 2015 study on jury participation put Alameda’s participation rate at just 12.32%