Nevada lawmakers urged to expand jury pool to include more minorities
Lawmakers were urged Friday to approve legislation aimed at expanding the jury pool in Nevada so more minorities serve.
Robert Eglet of the Nevada Justice Association said the last census showed Clark County was made up of 11 percent African Americans and 29 percent Hispanics. But he said through some 230 jury trials he has had in the past 30 plus years, African American participation in jury duty is between 2 and 5 percent.
“It’s the same story with Hispanics,” Eglet said.
He said jury commissioners currently get their list of potential jurors from the owners and licensed drivers listed by the Department of Motor Vehicles, the voter rolls and customers of public utilities in Nevada.
Assembly Bill 207 by Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, D-Las Vegas, would expand that to include lists compiled by the employment security division. It also would require jury commissioners to record the race of each trial juror called to duty.
Fumo called on the Assembly Judiciary Committee to support AB207 in an effort to provide a more representative jury pool and ensure defendants have an impartial and fair jury.
Lisa Rasmussen representing Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said in 17 years of practice, she too has noted far fewer minority jurors are called than their representation in the overall population.
Assemblyman Ira Hansen challenged the bill questioning whether this wasn’t another over-reach by government forcing people to participate in civic activities they don’t want to join. He referred to it as “Big Brother.” Hansen said some people just want “to be left alone.”
Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, responded “people have an obligation to support our system of government, an obligation to serve.”
He said there are penalties for not showing up for jury service and simply expanding the pool of potential jurors isn’t asking too much.
And Holly Welborn of the ACLU said there’s actually a requirement from the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure jury pools are more inclusive.
The primary opposition came from Renee Olsen, administrator of the Employment Security Division, who pointed out making her office release information for potential use in a jury pool potentially exposes that information to more danger of being stolen. She said she supports the idea of making jury pools more inclusive but they need to study the potential impacts for identity theft from one more release of personal information about those unemployment customers.
The panel took the bill under advisement.