Hastings Law Journal


J. Clark Kelso


The jury system in California is in crisis. This crisis manifests itself in public dissatisfaction with the jury system as it currently is structured and managed. The public is rendering its own judgment by refusing to show up for jury duty when called. Felony trials in several counties with large populations are now occasionally delayed because of an inability to provide sufficient jurors for the courtroom when needed.

In December 1995, the Judicial Council of California, the policy-making body for California's courts, appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the California jury system and to make timely recommendations for improvement. The 26-member Commission includes judges from municipal, superior and appellate courts, court administrators, legislators, a representative from the Governor's office, a district attorney, defense counsel, civil practitioners, and public defenders. The Commission conducted two full days of public hearings during March in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The Commission also received written comments and reports from several interested persons. The Commission's final report was submitted to the Judicial Council in May 1996.

The Commission's Report makes 60 recommendations for improvement to the California jury system and provides context for the Commission's recommendations. The Report also includes appendices providing proposed revisions to the California codes, rules of court, and standards of judicial administration. Additional appendices provide standards adopted by the American Bar Association and the State Bar Board of Governors, as well as statistics comparing the California jury system with those of sister states. A minority report prepared by the Consumer Attorneys of California is included as Appendix P.

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