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Sacramento homeless guy passed out near Sacramento City College and a restaurant. (Photo: Katy Grimes for California Globe)

Job Program With Courts Could be Justice for the Homeless

Summonsing homeless jurors is long overdue

By Lloyd Billingsley, November 27, 2019 11:02 am

Last month, California homeowners received bills reading TAX BILL –OPEN IMMEDIATELY, a subtle reference to the enclosed property tax bill. This month, some homeowners received a letter marked JURY SUMMONS, and reading “you are hereby summoned to serve as a trial juror for the Superior Court of California,” and there’s a bit more to it.

“You are instructed to check the website,” and if employed you “MUST report to work until your group is called in.” And “FAILURE TO APPEAR WHEN INSTRUCTED IS PUNISHABLE BY CONTEMPT AND/OR FINE PURSUANT TO CA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE.” The envelope helpfully includes a badge and juror parking permit. Also of interest are items not included.

The summons seeks no verification that the recipient is the actual owner of the property. Likewise, the summons does not probe any criminal convictions, charges, or jail time the juror may have served. In similar style, the summons does not seek data on any history of mental illness or medications that might affect the juror’s judgment. In similar style, jury service requires no IQ test, or record of educational achievement.

The summons does not demand verification of U.S. citizenship, and makes no mention of pay for serving on a jury. The summons assumes the juror is fully qualified, and that suggests a plan to expand the pool of jurors to those usually described as “homeless,” though that is something of a misnomer.

For years, squatters have been living under the Interstate 5 overpass crossing Garden Highway in Sacramento. Like many others scattered around the city, these squatters are well known to police and park rangers, who do nothing to displace them, and ongoing levee renovations have left them in place.

Some of the squatters operate electric generators to power computers and televisions. City funded medical vans provide on-site service and the longtime residents use state-provided cell phones to order pizza to the site. The squatters leave tons of trash along the bike trail, which the city duly picks up without charge. These realities make a case for homeless to serve on juries.

Some may have criminal records but since that is no problem for legitimate property owners, it should impose no bar on squatters, and the same goes for mental illness. Courthouse duty will get squatters off the street and inside a building that is warm in winter and cool in summer.

The courthouse offers bathroom facilities for the squatters to clean up, should they wish to do so. And jury duty eliminates the need to defecate outside, so no more contaminated beaches, as Sacramento discovered last summer along the American and Sacramento Rivers. The squatters’ bikes and trailers will save on parking space. Some are already using JUMP bikes and scooters.

Some of the squatters may be illegally present in the United States but this is no concern. False-documented illegals already get driver’s licenses and in-state tuition, plus welfare and now medical benefits. Better still, courts don’t cooperate with federal authorities and California is sanctuary state that protects illegals from deportation, even violent criminals.

The court pays jurors $15 a day, plus 34 cents a mile, and the court does not stipulate how this money is to be spent. If the homeless jurors use it to purchase cigarettes or alcohol, the high taxes on those products will help fund the government. So in effect the new jurors will be helping themselves. Some may use their pay as free money to buy drugs, but the summons raises no issues of drug use or how jurors spend their daily $15.

Homeless, indigents, squatters, whatever the designation, these folks are fully qualified to serve on juries. In that duty, they may send a corrupt politician to prison, and that would be justice at any time of year.

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