FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 4, 2023
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office | Valerie.Ibarra@sfgov.org | (628) 249-7946
SF Leaders Urge Gov. Newsom to Sign AB 881 to Increase Juror Pay at Sneak Preview of Documentary “Judging Juries”
AB 881, Be The Jury CA (Ting), is on the governor’s desk
SAN FRANCISCO — Last night, a panel of San Francisco leaders gathered at cafe and performance venue Manny’s for the sneak preview of Judging Juries, a new documentary by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Abby Ginzberg, and a discussion on jury fairness. The 22-minute film sheds light on the fact that criminal court juries are frequently not representative of their communities, and addresses the dire consequences of depriving Californians of juries that are fair cross-sections of their communities.
The film and panel discussion, which was moderated by KQED politics reporter Marisa Lagos, featured the San Francisco leaders who collaborated two years ago to create a local pilot program called Be The Jury to address this problem. The program raises juror pay for low- to moderate-income jurors from $15 to $100 a day, and has increased the racial and socioeconomic diversity of juries to better reflect the city’s demographics. Panelists included San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting, Public Defender Mano Raju, Treasurer José Cisneros, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, retired Alameda County Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, and former Be The Jury participant Gamage Carter.
The panelists endorsed state bill AB 881 (Ting, D-San Francisco), which passed the Legislature and currently sits on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, awaiting his signature. AB 881, known as Be The Jury California, is modeled on the San Francisco program and would raise juror pay to $100 per day in five California counties (San Francisco and four other counties to be selected by the state Judicial Council). Newsom has until Oct. 14 to sign the bill so it can go into effect in 2024. Supporters of AB 881 Be The Jury CA (Ting) can contact the governor to urge him to sign this bill.
“I’m thrilled that so many people came out to Manny’s for this screening so we can educate more people about the importance of participating in jury duty,” said Ginzberg, who announced that another screening of Judging Juries will be held Oct. 25 at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. “It was great to see so many local leaders collaborating to increase representation and fairness in jury trials.”
“California hasn’t significantly raised its jury pay for 50 years,” said Ting, who introduced AB 881. “We cannot expect people to carry out their civic duty when the state only pays $15 a day. Providing fair compensation of $100 a day to those who need it is a win-win for those who want to serve and those who deserve to see a better cross section of the community in the jury box.”
“It’s critical to empower more people from diverse backgrounds to serve on juries because too many people who are facing criminal charges don’t trust that they can get a fair trial because no one on the jury looks like them or comes from their communities,” said Raju. “Each trial benefits from having the collective wisdom of a fair cross section of the community in the jury pool.”
“Participating in civic life should not create a financial hardship, which is why I’m so proud that our Financial Justice Project has been able to put our skills and resources into setting up Be The Jury San Francisco and helping to lead the statewide effort,” said Cisneros.
“Ensuring equal access for all community members to serve on juries regardless of income will strengthen our criminal justice system and ensure that verdicts represent our communities and values,” said Jenkins. “People from lower income and diverse communities most often are directly impacted by crime and most often unable to serve because of financial hardship. Be The Jury rights this wrong.”
“One of the best ways to increase fairness in our justice system is to ensure that those facing criminal charges are afforded a jury of their peers, and offering fair compensation for jury service only increases the opportunities for people to serve their communities,” said Harbin-Forte.
“Serving on a jury is important because everyone in the community can contribute their own experiences that can flip the jury’s whole perspective on what actually could have happened in a given situation,” said Carter, who received a Be The Jury stipend for serving on a jury in San Francisco. “Being fairly compensated for jury duty changed the experience because it allowed me to serve without having to worry about what bills were or weren’t going to get paid that week.”