AB 1452 authorizes the “Be The Jury” pilot program to compensate low-income jurors $100 a day to remove barriers to serving and to increase economic and racial diversity of juries. The “Be The Jury” pilot program is the first of its kind in the country.
Posted October 12, 2021
SAN FRANCISCO - Today, Governor Newsom signed AB 1452, establishing the “Be The Jury” pilot program to compensate low-income jurors $100 a day for their jury service. AB 1452, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting and co-authored by Senator Scott Wiener, authorizes this first-of-its-kind pilot program in San Francisco Superior Court with the goal of establishing juries that are more reflective of San Francisco’s diverse communities.
AB 1452 is co-sponsored by San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros, Public Defender Mano Raju, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“Our juries should reflect San Francisco’s economic and racial diversity, but low juror compensation prevents too many people from participating in jury service. The authorization of the Be The Jury pilot program brings us a step closer to a more accessible, diverse, and just legal system,” said San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros.
Because income inequality is strongly correlated with race and ethnicity, juries have become less racially diverse due to an inability to afford to participate. Juries tend to be composed of people who can afford to serve unpaid or who have employers who will pay them while they are serving. Now that the Be The Jury pilot program has been authorized by state law, criminal justice partners and community organizations in San Francisco anticipate launching the pilot in January 2022.
“Having a jury of one’s peers is one of the most cherished rights in our American legal system, but, too often, our indigent clients in our own diverse city are not afforded that right when nobody on the jury looks like them or comes from their communities,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju. “Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signature, the Be The Jury pilot program can start to re-balance the scales of justice and remove the financial hardship that deprives thousands of San Franciscans from what should be a sacred right to serve on juries.”
“I strongly believe that the Be The Jury pilot program will help ensure that San Francisco juries are more economically and racially diverse, and therefore better able to administer justice that reflects the values of diverse San Francisco communities,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. “I am grateful to Governor Newsom for signing this bill into law and to Assemblymember Ting for sponsoring this historic policy, further enhancing equity and fairness in the criminal legal system.”
The Be The Jury pilot program is much needed in San Francisco, where a survey by the Administrative Office of the Courts of California found that 35 percent of jurors report that jury service imposed a financial hardship. While California law requires employers to provide time off for employees who are summoned to jury duty, employers are not required to compensate employees who serve on a jury. If a juror’s employer does not cover their salary while serving, jurors earn nothing on their first day of service and $15 per day after that. Providing fair compensation to people who otherwise cannot afford to serve on a jury due to financial hardship is the first step in creating a more equitable, inclusive, and diverse justice system.
“The legal system is full of inequities, and juries lacking diversity exacerbate that. I thank the Governor for seeing the need for change and allowing our city to explore whether higher pay improves demographics. Studies show when juries are more reflective of the communities they serve, they spend more time deliberating the case and are less likely to presume guilt, which ultimately helps defendants get a fair trial,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).
“The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is proud to have played a role in encouraging the passage and signing of this very important legislation. BASF strongly believes that the Be The Jury pilot program (AB 1452) will help ensure that San Francisco juries are more economically and racially diverse, and therefore better able to administer justice that reflects the values of diverse San Francisco communities. BASF has a long history of supporting best practices and innovative ideas in furtherance of criminal justice reform,” said Yolanda Jackson, Executive Director and General Counsel, The Bar Association of San Francisco.
The Be The Jury pilot program will compensate jurors with low-to-moderate incomes $100 per day for jury service in criminal trials in San Francisco Superior Court for the duration of the pilot. Jurors are eligible if their household income is less than 80% of the Area Median Income ($71,700 for a single person; $102,500 for a household of four) and if they meet one of the following criteria: (1) their employer does not compensate for jury service; (2) their employer does not compensate for the estimated duration of jury service; (3) they are self-employed; or (4) they are unemployed.Stakeholders will conduct an evaluation of the pilot program once it is completed.
The Be The Jury pilot program is funded by philanthropic dollars raised by the San Francisco Treasurer’s Financial Justice Project.