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Looking for a Better Mix

January 06, 2002

Historically, Orange County has had an overwhelmingly white population. The county grand jury similarly has lacked diversity, being made up mostly of older, retired white men.

The county is no longer lily-white, but the jury still is. Census figures show the county is only 51% white. About one-third of the county is Latino, 14% Asian. The current jury panel has nothing like that mix.

And as of last week, with a deadline of Jan. 18, only one Latino has applied for the new grand jury panel. No Asian has. The need for diversity on the panel that monitors local government operations and considers criminal indictments is more than cosmetic, and the county is right to be reaching out in a variety of ways for minority applicants. A panel that reflects the county's overall makeup provides a broader background of experience and viewpoints. That improves the jury's work.

Economics is a problem. Jury service, which pays only $50 a day, is a full-time job. That understandably weeds out many residents. Too many, it seems, to get the desired diversity.

The hours are long and the pay low, but Latino and Asian residents, whose presence in community service is so needed, should call (714) 834-6747 to respond.

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