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Ron Kaye: An idea whose time hasn't come

May 10, 2013
  • Columnist Ron Kaye
Columnist Ron Kaye

My head spun when I heard Democrats with their super-majority in the state Assembly slammed through a bill that would make California the only state in the nation to let immigrants, legal ones, sit on juries.

I thought, "What has America come to when, so soon after the Boston Marathon massacre, we want someone like Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a juror?"

But before I could get my outrage heated up, I found Katy Grimes, a writer on the conservative Cal Watchdog website, already had used the Tsarnaev line and concluded, "If you weren't outraged over the previous bills affording illegal immigrants' rights and liberties previously reserved for American citizens, AB 1401 should convince you that this Legislature is hell-bent on eroding what's left of California."

I've long supported immigrant rights and a pathway to citizenship, in no small part because it's crazy to have millions of people without identities or records living among us while we spend trillions on measures to make us feel safe.

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It passeth all my understanding why Democrats would exercise their absolute power to revolutionize the jury system ahead of all their other agendas: fix the schools, repair the infrastructure, ban cars, abolish corporations — there are so many true-blue targets of greater importance.

As much as we hate serving on juries, or even voting, I had to wonder whether we've gotten to the point that we want immigrants to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens.

As an intrepid pursuer of truth — or at least explanations that might be true — I started calling and emailing Assembly members who might shed some light on this mysterious move, starting with local Democrats who had voted for it.

Mike Gatto: Never heard back, maybe because I wrote some things he didn't like.

Bob Blumenfield: Never heard back, maybe because I called him "2JobBob" for simultaneously running for re-election to the Assembly and for the L.A. City Council.

There were others as well, but nobody could provide any worthwhile insights, not even an aide to Assemblyman Adam Gray of Merced, the only Democrat who joined Republicans in voting against this bill. Gray took one look at it and thought it was nonsense — nothing to do with being a freshman from an overwhelmingly Republican district that almost never elects a Democrat.

I spoke with Assemblyman Don Wagner, a Republican from Tustin and vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee who was as concerned about the legislative process itself.

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