Fremont Asm. Bob Wieckowski

ASSEMBLY 25 | Americans rarely enjoy jury duty, but a bill by Assemblymemeber Bob Wieckowski may test whether non-citizens will show much more enthusiasm passing judgment on their peers.

Wieckowski’s bill, which originated in the Assembly Judiciary Committee of which he chairs, would allow non-citizens in the state to serve as jurors. The bill passed the Assembly Thursday and awaits Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature. The Fremont legislator, who is a candidate for the State Senate next year, says the bill will fill a shortage of jurors and allows a taste of citizenship for lawful permanent residents.

“Immigrants are our friends. Immigrants are our neighbors. Immigrants are our co-workers and immigrants are our family members,” said Wieckowski on the Assembly floor. “They are part of the fabric of our community and they benefit from the protection of our laws.”

However, before any opposition could be raised, the vote was called showing the bill’s clear passage, but was halted. Nevertheless, Oceanside Assemblymember Rocky Chavez, a Republican, questioned whether there is a shortage of available citizens able to serve as jurors. He claims just 165,000 Californians served on juries last year out of 9 million summoned.

“I think there is something called a jury of your peers who understand the nuances of living in America,” said Chavez, who added not every country abides by the notion of innocent until proven guilty or taught to question government authority.

Wieckowski’s 25th Assembly District ranges from Fremont down to portions of San Jose. It also contains one of the highest concentrations of minority groups, specifically South Asians, in the entire country.

The boundaries of the 10th State Senate District currently held by Sen. Ellen Corbett, who is termed out next year, stretch even further north to include Hayward, which offers the largest bloc of Latino voters in the Bay Area. Together, Asians and Latinos in the 10th District hold a slim majority of the electorate.

Earlier this month, a bill allowing non-citizens to serve as poll workers, authored by Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta, was passed by the Legislature and also awaits the governor’s consideration.