Washington (March 30, 2023) – During
Disability Awareness Month, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and
Representative Katie Porter (CA-47) today introduced the Disability and
Age in Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act to prohibit excluding a
person from federal jury service based on disability or age. The bill expands
on legislation introduced by
Senator Markey and Representative Porter last Congress by adding protections
for potential jurors based on age, to safeguard against ageism in jury
selection. Currently, federal law prohibits excluding a person from federal
jury service on account of “race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or
economic status.” Disability and age are not included, which allows for
discrimination against seniors and people with disabilities.
The Disability and Age in Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act would ensure that disabled jurors who are over the age of 18 are able to perform their duties with reasonable accommodations, including but not limited to deaf and blind individuals—who may use sign language or braille—would not be disqualified under these provisions on account of disability. Twenty-seven states, including Massachusetts and California, have enacted laws that prohibit the exclusion and/or disqualification of people with a disability from state jury service. Eleven states have laws that protect against age disqualifying jurors in a state court.
“Our judicial system is rooted in the right of every person to stand trial in front of a jury of their peers—and that includes seniors and people with disabilities. That also means that every American adult deserves the opportunity to fulfill this sacred civic duty no matter their age or disability,” said Senator Markey. “Our legislation will create a jury of peers that truly reflects the diverse communities across our country. I am committed to fighting for equal opportunity in our judicial system so that no one experiences this type of discrimination.”
“Allowing Americans with disabilities or seniors to be categorically excluded from juries threatens the foundation of our legal system,” said Representative Porter. “I’m proud to work with Senator Markey to reintroduce a bill that puts an end to this discrimination and helps our country live up to our values of liberty and justice for all.”
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE. A copy of the one-pager can be found HERE.
Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
Cosponsors in the House include Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09).
The Disability and Age in Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act is endorsed by Access Ready, Alliance for Justice, American Association for Justice, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, American Geriatrics Society, The Arc, Bay State Council of the Blind, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Disability Rights Advocates, Gerontological Society of America, Hearing Loss Association of America, Justice in Aging, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of the Deaf, National Federation of the Blind, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Spinal Association, and VisionServe Alliance.
“Trial by jury is a cornerstone of our legal system, and diverse and representative juries are essential to fair deliberations and just outcomes. Diverse juries, with representation from all groups, not only promote community confidence in verdicts, but actually lead to better decision making. Jury service should be accessible to all members of our communities. NACDL is proud to support legislation that helps move us closer to that goal,” said Nellie King, President at National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
“The Bazelon Center is pleased to support the Disability and Age in Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including those with mental health disabilities, in federal jury service. To ensure fairness and to inspire public trust, federal juries must reflect our communities. Instead, our federal courts often restrict access for people with disabilities and limit the availability of reasonable accommodations when they are needed. We thank Senator Markey and Representative Porter for their leadership on this important effort to make our federal courts more inclusive for people with mental health disabilities,” said Monica Porter, Policy Attorney at Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law.
“A person’s age or physical disability should never hold them back from being able to exercise their Constitutional right to serve on a federal jury,” said Linda Lipsen, Chief Executive Officer of American Association for Justice. “AAJ strongly supports the Disability and Age In Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act, and we thank Senator Markey and Representative Porter for their leadership on this important issue.”
“A just society recognizes the contributions of all. We commend Senator Markey for his commitment to eliminating the discriminatory practices of disqualifying people from a federal jury based solely on their disability status or chronological age, and for recognizing the rich and valuable experience we all bring to fulfilling our civic duty,” said James C. Appleby, Chief Executive Officer at Gerontological Society of America.
“A jury of your peers is only possible when the jury includes every segment of the population including Deaf people and people with disabilities,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, Chief Executive Officer at National Association of the Deaf.
“Jury trials and service are key to equal justice in our democracy. Alliance for Justice supports this effort to protect the rights of all persons, including persons with disabilities, to ensure fairness in our court systems,” said Kimberly Humphrey, Legal Director at Federal Courts for the Alliance for Justice.
“AFB applauds the reintroduction of this important bill that ensures that people who are blind or have low vision are allowed to carry out their duty to serve on juries alongside their peers. Recognizing that most people become blind later in life, we further appreciate the addition of the prohibition on age-related discrimination, and we look forward to a time when all people are able to participate fully in the judicial system without prejudice,” said Stephanie Enyart, Chief Public Policy and Research Officer at American Foundation for the Blind.
“Too many people with hearing loss have been shut out of jury duty simply because no accommodations have been available,” said Barbara Kelley, Executive Director at Hearing Loss Association of America. “It is well past time a jury of peers included people with disabilities. Senator Markey’s bill will throw open the courtroom’s doors, ensuring equal access to all regardless of disability or age when being called for Federal jury duty.”
“The Arc supports the Disability and Age in Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act. People with disabilities are part of our communities and they should be included in our American civic duties. Providing accommodations to ensure that people with disabilities are included and reflected in our legal system is imperative for a true reflection of the United States,” said Brittany Owens, Senior Associate of Policy and Advocacy at The Arc.
“Too often, people with disabilities are excluded from everyday activities, and civic obligations are no different—something I have experienced personally. The Disability and Age in Jury Service Nondiscrimination Act would ensure that people with disabilities are not prohibited from participating fully in the American justice system,” said Doug Towne, Chair and Chief Executive Officer at Access Ready. “We applaud Senator Markey, Senator Casey, and Representative Porter for their leadership on this important issue and support for full participation and equal opportunity for disabled Americans.”
“The right to sit on a jury should not be denied to anyone because they have a disability. Jury service is a fundamental obligation of citizenship in the United States,” said Vincenzo Piscopo, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Spinal Association. “On behalf of 5.5 million wheelchair users in the United States, United Spinal Association applauds the introduction of this bill, which will remove one more barrier for us, the disability community, to full participation in our nation’s civic life.”
“Justice for all, including those with disabilities, requires putting an end to federal jury systems that discriminate against people with disabilities,” said Erin Prangley, Director of Policy at National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities.
Last November, Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, introduced the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act to promote accessibility of video communication and emerging technologies for people with disabilities. That same month, Senator Markey sent a letter to the Department of Education and the Department of Justice calling for stronger policies that would avoid limiting access to higher education for students with disabilities based on involuntary leaves of absence. In February, Senator Markey demanded Twitter Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk reinstate Twitter’s accessibility team and online features that allow users with disabilities to fully access and use the social media platform.