(PHILADELPHIA) March 4, 2019 – Today Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown (At-Large) and the Committee on Law and Government held a hearing to examine the benefits of providing childcare in courtrooms for jurors and others involved in court business, and to evaluate the feasibility of instituting such a childcare system in Philadelphia. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown stated, “On the occasion of Women’s History Month, I hope to introduce a bill designed to remove another barrier for mothers who are called to serve on juries.”
The right to be a juror is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The hallmark of American constitutional democracy is the right to an impartial jury. Public participation in the jury system is a key avenue by which citizens are able to engage with the political process. Lynn Marks, Chair of the First Judicial District’s Juror Participation Initiative stated, “Jury service is an important civic responsibility. But, jury service can be particularly burdensome for some individuals, especially for low income individuals. Serving on a jury can have a negative impact on a person’s employment situation and financial security. People often express that the burden of finding and/or paying for childcare is the reason that they cannot serve on a jury.”
A number of court childcare programs already exist in Pennsylvania. Jovida Hill, Executive Director for the Office of Engagement for Women stated, “It is surprising that this benefit does not already exist in Philadelphia County considering that more than 65,000 children and their families have been served by court-provided childcare in Montgomery County for more than two decades. Similarly, Allegheny County has provided childcare for jurors and others with court business since 1980.”
To address this issue of promoting diversity, fairness, and efficiencies in the jury system, Mayor Kenney’s Juror Participation Initiative Committee focused in part on alleviating the hardship and inconvenience of jury service. It recommended that, to enable jurors who are primary caretakers of children to serve on juries, Philadelphia should provide for a court-sponsored childcare program.
Rhonda Hill Wilson, Esq., Co-chairperson of the Interbranch Commission on Gender, Race and Ethnic Fairness stated, “We must become a leader on this issue of fairness and equal justice under the law and establish free juror day care in Philadelphia so that all members of our communities may serve as jurors.”
Mike Lee, Director of Government Affairs for the District Attorney’s Office of Philadelphia and Tainan Kalogerakis, president of the Barristers Association of Philadelphia also testified in support of childcare resources for the court system.
Watch the hearing:
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