Proposed changes to Alameda County courts: jurors could have to travel farther

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Proposed changes to jury selection in Alameda County could mean longer travel distances for those called to serve.

The Alameda County Courts Executive Committee is proposing moving to a county jury pool for all case types, including misdemeanors and in all locations. That could mean jurors won't necessarily be called to serve at the court they live closest to.

The courts already operate on a county-wide jury pool for felony cases.

"The view of the bench is your jury pool shouldn't depend on what type of case you have," said Chad Finke, Court Executive Officer.

"It should be the same for everyone in the county," Finke continued.

Finke says he believes the move will lead to greater overall participation and people within the county being called to serve less often.

Public Defender Brendon Woods strongly disagrees.

"What the courts are doing is adding an extra layer of difficulty to get people to serve on juries," said Woods.

Woods says he believes the change will create a burden on people in lower socioeconomic classes by asking them to travel farther.

"It is going to make the jury panels mostly people who are affluent and, I hate to say this, but people who are not people of color," said Woods.

"Given the diversity of our county, if every jury pool is a county-wide pool, I think they will be more diverse, not less," said Finke.

Lolita Ary says she's been called to serve on a jury every year.

"It's like oh boy, OK. I'm hoping to be local where I serve," said Ary.

She's not alone.

"Either close to my workplace or close to my home, that would be convenient," said Teresa Wang.

The courts will accept public comment on the proposed change until May 3, 2018, with the proposed change taking effect July 1.

Written comments can be submitted to; to Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, Attn: Jasmine Polar, 1225 Fallon Street, Room 209, Oakland, CA 94612; or via fax to (510) 891-6276.

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