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Brown Vetoes Bill That Would Have Allowed Noncitizens to Serve on Juries

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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

In the past week, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed bills allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain drivers licenses and practice law in California. He approved another measure barring police from turning undocumented immigrants over to federal authorities, except when they have committed serious crimes.

But allowing noncitizens to serve on juries? The governor said AB 1401, which would have allowed that, went too far.

“Jury service, like voting, is quintessentially a prerogative and responsibility of citizenship,” Brown said in a brief message announcing he had vetoed AB 1401. “This bill would permit lawful permanent residents who are not citizens to serve on a jury. I don’t think that’s right.”

The veto came hours after Latino lawmakers had argued that Brown’s signing of Assemblymember Tom Ammiano's AB 4, the "Trust Act," which sets limits on when local police can cooperate with federal immigration authorities, had positioned California as a national leader on the immigration issue. “This is so important. Particularly at a time when the federal government is absolutely missing in action,” said former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “When  Republicans primarily, but also Democrats, have failed to do anything with respect to immigration reform.”

After signing the Trust Act, Brown released a statement boasting, “While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead. I’m not waiting.”

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Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez doesn’t see a contradiction in Brown signing bills expanding immigrant rights while vetoing the jury measure. “This was not an immigrant issue,” he said. “I think the Democratic Party tried to make it an immigrant issue, but this is actually an issue of our judicial system.”

Chavez voted against the bill, arguing jury duty is a key responsibility of American citizenship. “There was no problem being solved by this bill,” he said. “Millions of citizens have been coming forward to serve on juries. It wasn’t like we had a shortage.”

Brown signed several bills this year that he had vetoed during the previous legislative session. The Trust Act is one example. But in those cases, the governor had detailed specific problems he had with the measures' language. Given how broad Brown’s veto message was on AB 1401, it’s hard to see the governor changing his mind in 2014.

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