|For many individuals, jury service provides their sole direct exposure to
the court system. In my visits to the trial courts in the 58 counties, I frequently
encountered woefully inadequate jury facilities.
Add poor facilities together with
grossly inadequate compensation, the meager sum of $5 a day, the lowest in the nation; the
lack of information provided to prospective jurors; lengthy waiting periods, often for no
apparent reason, and you have a recipe for frustration and indignation.
Jury service is often described as one of the great rights, and one of the fundamental
obligations, of our citizens. Over the years, excluded groups and classes - women, racial
minorities, disabled individuals - have ardently sought inclusion in the jury pool.
We owe them, and every citizen, a system that honors and recognizes their fulfillment
of this important duty and provides litigants with a representative cross-section of the
year, the budget included funding that would have begun to address some of the juror
compensation issues, but the money was blue-penciled by the governor. We will try again
next year and continue to do so until we see success.
A bill implementing a one day-one trial jury requirement met with a happier fate.
Unless a court can establish the need for an exemption, all courts in the state are
required to adopt a plan under which jurors need appear at the courthouse for one day.
At the end of the day, they will be discharged unless they have been summoned to a
trial court, in which event they are to serve for the duration of the trial. In either
event, their obligation is satisfied for a year.
This clearly is superior to the system in most counties that requires jurors to appear
day after day for up to 10 days, or, even if not required to appear physically, mandates
that an individual stay on call for a week or two.
Additionally, I have appointed a taskforce to translate criminal and civil jury
instructions into more understandable layman's language while still remaining faithful to
the requirements of the law.
These measures all should have a beneficial effect on the public and its perception of
The chief justice delivered these remarks on
jury service as part of his "State of the Judiciary Address" at the State Bar's
annual meeting in Monterey last month.