Intimidating prospective jurors?

A new group in this author’s home city, Seattle, Wash., is seeking to get its hands on the names of disqualified jurors. A Seattle Times story has the scoop:

The group wants information on people who were disqualified from serving on juries, because it says those same disqualifications likely mean they shouldn’t legally be able to vote in the state….But the Secretary of State’s Office points out that such information is not a public record, nor is it kept on hand for more than the two-week period a person is ordered to serve jury duty.

The Secretary of State in question is Sam Reed, a staunchly bipartisan (really) Republican public official who has presided over heated recounts, changing election laws, and more. He is right, that those particular data are not part of the public record. We at the Jury and Democracy Project know this because we have scoured those records to obtain the names of those who did serve on juries (in the course of seeing how jury service changes many citizens into more active voters). One can get to lists of jurors struck during voir dire, but the dismissals that “Respect Washington” wants to see aren’t part of that record.

More importantly, the concern from the project team here is that such activities could intimidate legal residents anxious about being caught in an immigration dragnet. It is essential that jury service be a safe opportunity for civic education and public service for new immigrants, because they are among those groups most likely to benefit. Jury service is a powerful cup of civic coffee particularly for those not yet engaged in the system. Heaven forbid any new laws make them more reluctant to serve.

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About jgastil

John Gastil is Head and Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, where he specializes in political deliberation and group decision making.
This entry was posted in Social/political impact of juries, Summoning juries, Voir dire and jury selection. Bookmark the permalink.

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