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Brown Vetoes Bill That Would Have Allowed Noncitizens to Serve on Juries

| October 7, 2013
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(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

In the past week, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed bills allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses and practice law in California. He approved another measure barring police from turning undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities, except when they have committed serious crimes.

But allowing noncitizens to serve on juries? The governor said AB 1401, which would have allowed that, went too far.

“Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship,” Brown said in a brief message announcing he had vetoed AB 1401. “This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don’t think that’s right.”

The veto came hours after Latino lawmakers had argued that Brown’s signing of Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s AB 4, the “Trust Act,” which sets limits on when local police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities, had positioned California as a national leader on the immigration issue. “This is so important. Particularly at a time when the federal government is absolutely missing in action,” said former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “When  Republicans primarily, but also Democrats, have failed to do anything with respect to immigration reform.”

After signing the Trust Act, Brown released a statement boasting, “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead. I’m not waiting.”

Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez doesn’t see a contradiction in Brown signing bills expanding immigrant rights while vetoing the jury measure. “This was not an immigrant issue,” he said. “I think the Democratic Party tried to make it an immigrant issue, but this is actually an issue of our judicial system.”

Chavez voted against the bill, arguing jury duty is a key responsibility of American citizenship. “There was no problem being solved by this bill,” he said. “Millions of citizens have been coming forward to serve on juries. It wasn’t like we had a shortage.”

Brown signed several bills this year that he had vetoed during the previous legislative session. The Trust Act is one example. But in those cases, the governor had detailed specific problems he had with the measures’ language. Given how broad Brown’s veto message was on AB 1401, it’s hard to see the governor changing his mind in 2014.

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About the Author ()

Sacramento bureau chief Scott Detrow covers state government, politics and policy for KQED News and its statewide news program, The California Report. Before joining KQED, Scott reported on Pennsylvania's natural gas drilling boom for NPR's StateImpact project. Reach Scott Detrow at sdetrow@kqed.org.
  • Willis James

    The Trust Act. Tell me, should the congress pass the Senate Gang of Eight immigration bill, what would California do about the provision that requires all those undocumented arriving after Jan. 1, 2012, to be deported?
    Would California refuse to hand them over after they’ve been arrested for crimes?
    How about future undocumented arrivals (post passage of the Gang of Eight bill)
    In other words, no matter what reform happens, will California refuse to comply.
    If so, why support any bill if the details will be ignored by California.
    How can people urge support of a bill they will refuse to comply with?

  • Kurt thialfad

    The governurd is correct to veto AB1401, to not allow those who don’t know the basic of the American way of government, and responsibilities of citizenship, to serve on juries. Non-citizens are simply unqualified.

    But his signing of AB4 leaves me scratching my head. Local authorities should always keep open the option of bringing in federal authorities, particularly in the area where they have all the expertise. All we need is another Bologne killing to prove to all just how wrongheaded this was for Jerry Brown to sign. I hope now Jerry Brown will stop complaining about Arizona enacting their own immigration laws. We’ll have to see what the Supreme Court thinks about AB4.