Bill would expand jury pool

TRENTON – The Assembly Judiciary Committee on Thursday will hear a bill that would expand the jury pool lists to include people who receive food stamps or cash assistance from the government.

The bill would include the names of the recipients in a list put together each year by an assignment judge in each of the state’s 21 counties. Prospective juror lists typically include registered voters, licensed drivers, and people who file state income taxes and homestead rebates, among others.

Bill A1440, sponsored by Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-15), of Trenton; Assemblyman Albert Coutinho and Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, (both D-29), of Newark, would expand the juror source lists to include recipients of cash assistance or food stamps.

In a phone interview, Coutinho said the purpose of the bill is to create a “truly representative, fair and balanced” jury pool that consists of people from all walks of life.

“You don’t want folks hard on their luck to be isolated,” he said. “It allows them to be more actively involved in the judicial process.”

Human Services Department spokeswoman Nicole Brossie said that food stamp and cash assistance recipients “already appear on many other lists from which jury pools are selected.”  However, state law does provide jury candidates to be excused from service because of, “financial hardship,” she said.  

As of July, there were 816,581 people in New Jersey receiving food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Bill would expand jury pool