A few of my more politically extreme acquaintances think that the best thing that could happen to improve America is if a severe earthquake caused the State of California to separate from the North American continent and sink into the Pacific. As I said, they hold extreme views. Among their more sanguine comments about California is referring to it as “the land of fruits and nuts.” Although I might disagree with their analysis, at least for the moment, everyone is entitled to his opinion.
Recently the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that jurors in that state need not be able to speak English and yet be eligible to serve. This concerns me for several reasons. The first and most important is that as a kid, I played the game we called “telephone.” Perhaps you know the game.
One person whispers something to the next person who then whispers it to the next until the message makes its way back to the originator. The larger the number of people involved in the game, the more distorted the original message becomes.
Perhaps we can look forward to scenes in our Arizona courts that resemble this episode of “I Love Lucy” in which Lucy is arrested for passing counterfeit money:
While there is no reason to believe that translating a statement that a witness or the defendant might make incorrectly or without the nuance that was used in the original statement would be done intentionally, that possibility does exist. And barring that, at the very least, as we see in the episode, this translating and re-translating slows down what is already a tiresome and laborious process to begin with. At the very least, we should expect that allowing languages other than English will add to the cost of a judicial system which is already overburdened.
But as far as Arizona has gone, the Golden State is contemplating going yet further. Governor Brown now has before him a bill which would allow non-citizens to serve on juries. Since the state has now begun issuing drivers’ licenses to “undocumented individuals,” (non-Americans who are in this country illegally), this next step really shouldn’t surprise any of us.
But I wonder if a case could be made by a person involved in a lawsuit that he or she would not accept any jurors who were not citizens of the United States. After all, we are supposed to be tried by a “jury of our peers,” and to many of us, part of our “peerdom” is that we are all citizens of this country. I guess, were I in that position, I would argue, “Yes,” “Si,” “Ja,” “Oui.”