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New top federal judge aims pushes for more black and Latino jurors

Judge Ruben Castillo

Judge Ruben Castillo

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Updated: September 10, 2013 6:31AM



Chicago’s newly appointed top federal judge is stepping up efforts to bring in more black and Latino jurors, saying he wants a “wider segment of the community” to hear federal cases.

Chief Judge Ruben Castillo said last month that the failure of federal juries to accurately match the ethnic makeup of the Northern District of Illinois was a “sore point.”

The issue made headlines earlier this year when Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ lawyers raised concerns that not a single black man was in the pool of 50 potential jurors from which Beavers’ jury was selected.

Castillo is now for the first time sending out questionnaires to 34,000 randomly selected new potential jurors based on Illinois drivers licences and state identifications — as well as the voter records the court previously relied upon.

That’s a move his predecessor, Judge James Holderman, approved last year. But Castillo said he also plans a public outreach program to explain the value of jury service.

Court Clerk Thomas Bruton added that he’s tracking responses from poor communities, and that jury questionnaires can now be submitted by smartphone.

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