Soundings

Richard Miniter
Jurymandering
Winter 1995

In an effort to make its jury pool more diverse, New York has become the first state to draw potential jurors from the welfare rolls. How much sense does this make? Consider: Welfare recipients have never been excluded from juries. They enter the pool in the same ways as anyone else—by registering to vote, obtaining a driver's license, filing a state income tax return, or volunteering for jury service.

By using welfare itself as a criterion for finding jurors, the state is adding to the pool only those welfare recipients who have not done any of these things—that is, those who have shown the least inclination to take on the burdens of citizenship. Jury service is a weighty responsibility; it defies logic to choose people for it on the basis of their civic detachment.

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