California Code of Civil Procedure Section 237
Code of Civil Procedure section 237 provides, in pertinent part: "(a)(1) The names of qualified jurors drawn from the qualified juror list for the superior court shall be made available to the public upon request unless the court determines that a compelling interest . . . requires that this information should be kept confidential or its use limited in whole or in part. (2) Upon the recording of a jury's verdict in a criminal jury proceeding, the court's record of personal juror identifying information of trial jurors . . . consisting of names, addresses, and telephone numbers, shall be sealed until further order of the court as provided by this section. (3) For purposes of this section, 'sealed' or 'sealing' means extracting or otherwise removing the personal juror identifying information from the court record." Subsequent statutory citations are to the Code of Civil Procedure.
In People v. Goodwin (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 1084, the court concluded that the trial court's practice of referring to jurors by number rather than name did not violate defendant's right to a public trial. (59 Cal.App.4th at p. 1087.)
While we agree with the Goodwin court's reservations about the procedure's wisdom and practicality, we agree that the practice is not an invalid one.
In Goodwin the trial court explained that the local practice had arisen as a matter of administrative convenience, in order to facilitate the protection of juror identity in the preparation of reporter's transcripts, as required by Code of Civil Procedure section 237. (Id. at pp. 1087-1089.)
The Goodwin court distinguished Erickson v. Superior Court (1997) 55 Cal.App.4th 755, on which appellant relies. There the court had "unequivocally barred parties, counsel and others from access to juror identifying information, absent granting of a petition for access to that information." (Goodwin, supra, at p. 1090.)
In Goodwin, by contrast, as in appellant's case, "the court and counsel were not barred from access to juror identifying information. . . . The names of the jurors were not recorded in the reporter's transcript, but the names were nonetheless available to the court and counsel. Since the jurors' names were known to the court and counsel, the jurors were not anonymous." (Ibid.)
The Goodwin court held: "There is no constitutional requirement that the jurors' names be spoken in the courtroom." (Goodwin, supra, 59 Cal.App.4th at p. 1092.)
The court noted that "contrary to appellant's assumption, the jury was not anonymous." (Ibid.) "Even an anonymous jury is constitutional when warranted by the facts, and any prejudice in the ability to select a jury is not assumed but must be established, principally by analysis of the voir dire. " (Ibid.)
The court also concluded "appellant's right to a public trial was not denied, as the trial was 'open to the general public at all times.' The jurors' faces were visible to anyone who cared to visit the courtroom.
The trial was public in every practical and constitutional sense." (Id. at pp. 1092-1093.)
The Goodwin court also rejected the argument that the defendant "was denied a fair trial because the jury would speculate that there was some reason related to defendant's dangerousness which required the jurors' names be kept secret." (Goodwin, supra, 59 Cal.App.4th at p. 1091, fn. 3.)
The court pointed out the procedure was followed in all criminal cases and had nothing to do with any particular defendant. (Ibid.)
The court also rejected the contention that "protecting the identity of jurors in the record provides a wall behind which to hide and weakens juror accountability, " noting that it could also be argued "that protecting juror identity encourages jurors to act without fear and to proceed on the courage of their convictions." (Ibid.)