A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Superior Court and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, alleging that registered sex offenders are being unconstitutionally barred from serving as jurors.
Sticking with her earlier tentative decision, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara M. Scheper ruled Wednesday that the case brought by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws should not go forward. She heard arguments July 8, then took the case under submission.
“Here, plaintiffs have failed to carry their burden to demonstrate that the legislature had no rational basis to exclude registrants and others on supervision from jury service,” the judge wrote. “Moreover, the fact that some ex-felons are being categorized differently than other ex-felons does not mean that the law is violating plaintiffs’ equal protection rights.”
The alliance represented four men and one woman in the suit filed last Nov. 7 against Becerra and Sherri Carter, the clerk of the Los Angeles Superior Court. The plaintiffs challenged a 2019 state law that they say initially was written to allow all convicted felons, including registered sex offenders, to be jurors.
However, the bill was later amended “to target registrants by making them the sole class of persons excluded from that bill’s reforms,” according to the suit.
In their court papers, lawyers for Becerra stated that the Legislature “could have rationally been concerned with juror bias … harbored by persons who are subject to continuing, intrusive government monitoring, surveillance and supervision.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Janice M. Bellucci countered during the July 8 hearing that even convicted murderers can now serve as jurors. She said a better way to limit bias is through peremptory challenges during jury selection so that sex offenders could be eliminated from those cases in which they could be suspected of being partial.
According to court papers, plaintiff Jane Roe is Latina, 72 years old, holds a bachelor’s degree and was convicted nearly 30 years ago; plaintiff John Doe 1 is Black, 51 years old and was convicted more than 10 years ago; John Doe 2, a 56-year-old Latino, was found guilty more than two decades ago; John Doe 3, also 56, is gay and was convicted more than 20 years ago; and John Doe 4 holds a doctorate in a “scientific field” and was convicted more than 15 years ago.
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