L.A. Judge Mulls Sex Registrants' Bid to Serve on Juries

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge said today she is inclined to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the Los Angeles Superior Court and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra in which five registered sex offenders say they and people like them are being unconstitutionally barred from serving as jurors.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara Scheper, saying there are "novel issues the court is being asked to consider,'' took the case brought by the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws under submission. She said she may have a ruling next week.

The alliance is representing 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. They are challenging 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 state 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 that even convicted murderers can now serve as jurors. She said the way to try and 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. She maintains the current law is unconstitutional.

"There is no rational basis that this group of people has been excluded from juries,'' Bellucci said.

But the judge said the law still bars some convicted felons from jury service, including those in custody and others under court supervision.

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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