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Plan to assign jurors to any Alameda County courthouse for misdemeanor cases is scrapped

OAKLAND — A plan that would have required Alameda County residents to report to any courthouse in the county for jury duty in misdemeanor criminal cases has been shelved because of public outcry.
Alameda County Superior Court officials proposed changing the current policy that allows potential jurors to serve in the courthouse nearest them in misdemeanor criminal proceedings. Under the proposed change they could be assigned to any courthouse; for example, a Berkeley resident may end up serving as a juror for a misdemeanor DUI case in Fremont.
Potential jurors in felony criminal or civil cases already have to travel to whatever courthouse they’re assigned to, said Court Executive Officer Chad Finke. Felony criminal proceedings take place in the Rene C. Davidson courthouse in Oakland and  East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.
The court has received about 1,000 public comments from people concerned about the proposed rule, including Public Defender Brendon Woods, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley and other elected public officials.
“It didn’t make sense to put that onerous burden on the citizens of Alameda County for misdemeanor cases,” Woods said. “It hits the low-income communities of color the hardest.”
He added that the result could be a less economically and racially diverse jury pool, making it difficult for clients to get a true jury of their peers.
And because some residents called for jury duty would have to travel farther than the nearest courthouse, fewer people likely would show up, he added.
Finke said the public comments were the most he had ever received in his four and a half years as the county’s court executive officer.
He said court staff meanwhile is looking into what can be done to help make it easier for potential jurors to get to distant courthouses, such as issuing travel vouchers.
The proposed change was supposed to  improve participation across the board , and reduce the need to summon people every year.
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Change proposed for Alameda County jury duty

It was vetted by three committees whose members included judges. One of them, an executive committee composed of 19 judges, received the recommendation in February and agreed to a 45-day public comment period, which ended May 3.
When approved, court rule changes typically go into effect either July 1 or Jan. 1.

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