Limitations on Selection of an Anonymous Jury and Access to Juror Names
September 14th, 2021

People v. Lopez (June 14, 2021, B305783) 65 Cal.App.5th 484 affirmed the rule allowing the selection of an anonymous jury but recognized important limitations on such a practice.

First, while Code of Civil Procedure § 237 requires juror identifying information to be sealed after the jury returns its verdict, § 237 “does not authorize sealing of juror identifying information at any stage of a civil action or at any stage of a criminal action prior to return of [the] jury verdict.” [Quoting Erickson v. Superior Court (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 745, 758].) Lopez at ___ [pp. 11-12].

Second, the names of prospective jurors from counsel must be based on a case-specific showing of need. (Ibid.) “The federal courts have identified five factors for courts to consider in determining whether to empanel an anonymous jury: ‘(1) [T]he defendants’ involvement in organized crime, (2) the defendants’ participation in a group with the capacity to harm jurors, (3) the defendants’ past attempts to interfere with the judicial process, (4) the potential that the defendants will suffer a lengthy incarceration if convicted; and (5) extensive publicity that could enhance the possibility that jurors’ names would become public and expose them to intimidation or harassment.’”  [Citations.]  “However, this list of factors is not exhaustive, nor does the presence of any one factor or set of factors automatically compel a court to empanel an anonymous jury.” ( ____[pp. 15-16].)


Third, anonymity must be explained to jurors in way that doesn’t suggest danger.


“The court advised the jurors that they would be referred to by the last four digits of their badge numbers, explaining, ‘[W]e don’t mean any disrespect, this is to protect your privacy and your security. And that’s also why we have you wear the badges … throughout the building.’ The court explained the importance of jury duty and that it would be too expensive to employ professional jurors. The court added that with professional jurors there would be a ‘greater chance of graft or corruption because everybody will know who these jurors are.’”  This explanation was an abuse of discretion.  “[T]he trial court took no precautions to minimize the risk the jury would perceive Lopez was dangerous. … [F]ar from minimizing any risk Lopez posed to the jury, the court highlighted possible security concerns, although it did not specifically connect those concerns to Lopez.”



Fourth, upon the recording of a jury verdict in a criminal case, the court’s record of the jurors’ personal identifying information is to be sealed but any person may petition the court for disclosure of the identifying information which petition must be supported by a declaration establishing good cause for the disclosure. ((CCP 237(b People v. Cook (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 341, 34); cf.,  Townsel v. Superior Court (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1084, 1098, fn. 7.)


See this post for further discussion and sample instruction: Juror Anonymity: Jury Must Be Assured That Reasons For Anonymity Are NOT Related To Security

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