BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
Judge hopefuls Angela Storey and Cindy Hendrickson — both vying for embattled Judge Aaron Persky’s seat on June 5 — differ on how to make juries more representative of the diverse population of Santa Clara County.
Residents will be able to vote for either Storey or Hendrickson on the June 5 ballot, whether or not they vote to recall Persky. Storey, a career civil litigator with some experience working on criminal defense and on crime victims’ restitution cases, said she found that juries in the county skewed older, either those who are retired or have salaried jobs.
Often this means juries don’t adequately include racial minorities and the poor, she said, because lower-income jurors simply can’t take time off from work.
The court only pays jurors $15 a day, which she said “maybe” covers the cost of gas, parking and food.
Fewer hardship claims allowed
Storey said juries have gotten more diverse as judges have cracked down on what they consider a hardship claimed by a potential juror, and suggested more strictness in that area.
She also said she’d like to see law firms encouraged to pay for jury service of their employees, recalling a case she tried in which a legal secretary who was called for jury duty said her firm wouldn’t pay her while she served.
“The judge said, ‘Your firm tries dozens of cases. You tell them you’re on the jury and they’re going to pay, if they want a trial in my courtroom,’” Storey told the Post.
Jury diversity in criminal cases
Hendrickson said she hadn’t seen as much of an issue with diverse juries, but said that was likely because as a prosecutor in the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, she’s mostly worked in criminal law.
Those cases can be shorter than civil trials, Hendrickson pointed out, so it’s not as much of a time commitment for those who can’t afford to take much time away from work.
Hendrickson said she’s selected more than 50 juries and found that she was usually able to get a good mix of income levels, races and genders.
“I felt like the best decisions got made when there was a diversity of life experiences, so there could be diversity of thought,” Hendrickson told the Post. “I felt pretty good in Santa Clara County that, with respect to the criminal trials that I had, that I was able to get a very diverse group in all of those categories.”
A lack of black jurors
She said there was a particular underrepresentation of black jurors. The 2010 Census showed that the county was about 2.4% black.
Age diversity fluctuates throughout the year, with summer juries skewing younger because of the college students who deferred jury duty during the academic year.
Criminal grand juries, which decide whether to indict people accused of crimes, tend to have a lack of diversity, Hendrickson said, with mostly older, richer jurors who can afford the time.