Finally, some common sense about juries and why it matters to UCLA

Editorial: Anyone who works for UCLA, or any local public entity, and has been called for jury duty knows that the jury pool in LA County is not a random sample of the population.  Apart from the fact that only citizens serve on juries (but anyone can be tried), public sector institutions are likely to have liberal policies for jury duty and jury leave, unlike many private employers.  Those called who show up (many don’t) are often excused for hardship reasons, or excused from lengthy trials, because of the economic hardship of missing work.  Yours truly’s last experience was being in a pool of 50 potential jurors for what was going to be a lengthy trial (a man accused of murder who insisted on representing himself).  The fifty were chosen because their employers provided unlimited jury leave (whatever that means for faculty) and were disproportionately public employees.  In fact, of the 50, four were from UCLA.  Does 8% of the LA County population work for UCLA?  Whatever defendants are getting, it is not a jury of their peers.

Now comes word from the San Francisco Chronicle:

A defendant’s right to be tried by a jury of 12 people in criminal cases has been enshrined in California’s Constitution since statehood. But judges say the state can no longer afford it. With court funding evaporating, the California Judges Association is endorsing a state constitutional amendment that would shrink juries from 12 to eight members for misdemeanors, crimes punishable by up to a year in jail…

Full story at

The judges were bolder than I was back in 2004.  They want to cut to 8 (which would cut the need for jurors by one third) and include certain criminal trials.  I proposed 9 (which would cut the need by one fourth) and only for civil trials:

Smaller Juries

July 8, 2004
Re “Jury Service No-Shows Get the Word,” July 2: The notion that there must be 12 people on a jury was inherited from British tradition in 1776. In over two centuries since that time, private industry has learned to economize on the labor it uses and to tailor the amount of labor needed to the task to be performed. Jury size could be reduced, with fewer than 12 jurors used for minor civil matters and crimes. If the average jury consisted of nine people, the need for jurors would be cut by one-fourth. Rather than complain that citizens dislike conscription, the judiciary needs to move into the 21st century.
Daniel J.B. Mitchell
Los Angeles


3 thoughts on “Finally, some common sense about juries and why it matters to UCLA

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