Assemblymember Rocky Chavez speaks out against recently passed AB 1401

Assemblymember Rocky Chavez Undesignated Leave a Comment

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SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Rocky Chávez (R-Oceanside) urged a no vote on AB 1401 today when it was heard on the floor of the Assembly. AB 1401 was authored by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The measure would allow non-citizens to sit on juries in California. It passed the Assembly with a vote of 48-28. No Republican voted for the measure.
When I look at a piece of legislation I ask the question, ‘What is the problem we are trying to solve? AB 1401 supposes that we have a shortage of potential jurors. Last year, more than 9 million Californians were called to jury duty and 165,000 sat. There are no complaints from judges or attorneys about a shortage of qualified jurors.
Ultimately, at the heart of the issue is the right to be tried by a jury of your peers. During my military service, I spent a lot of time in different countries learning about different cultures. I do not pretend to know what it means to be a citizen of those nations. I think that understanding only comes when an individual openly takes an oath to become a citizen of the country in which they live.
Lawful immigrants are eligible to enlist in the Armed Forces, a fact many proponents of the measure are quick to point out. However, a significant difference exists between serving in the Armed Forces and serving jury duty. Those who serve in the Armed Forces must take an oath to uphold the constitution and its laws. They also are exempt from jury duty.
Jury duty is a unique responsibility of citizens of the United States and requires an understanding of the cultural nuances of our legal system all immigrants cannot be expected to have.
If this measure is signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, California will become the only State in the nation to allow non-citizens to sit on juries. 40 states, including California, have specific laws requiring citizenship as a condition of eligibility for jury service.
I see immigrants as a shining light in this country, but this bill does not pertain to immigration as much as it does the rights and responsibilities of our citizens. While immigrants are helping to grow and build our country, there is something unique to the cultural experience and understanding of the nuances our citizen’s share. I believe serving on a jury, like voting, should be reserved for citizens of the United States. It is for these reasons I chose to vote no on AB 1401.

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