Grand Theater in Oakland to show free documentary on diversifying juries

A free movie is being shown next week that highlights the battle to diversify juries.

Abby Ginzberg’s new documentary, "Judging Juries." will be shown Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland. Ginzberg used to be a criminal defense attorney. 

Her film comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed AB 881, which sought to increase the pay for low-income jurors from $15 to $100 a day. The bill had no opposition.

Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods has long been a champion of getting more people of color onto juries. 

"We need more Black and brown people summoned for jury duty, and we need them seated in the jury box," Woods said in a statement. "Too often the jury consists of a group of people whose life experience is nothing like the person seated next to the public defender. That’s got to change."

Woods' office is working with state Sen. Nancy Skinner, former Assemblymember Shirley Weber, Berkeley Law professor Elizabeth Semel and others to change California law. That includes sponsoring legislation including SB310, which allows people with felony convictions to serve, and AB3070, which made it more difficult to remove Black people from juries.

The film features Woods, who was appointed Alameda County’s first Black public defender more than a decade ago. It also includes interviews with Alameda County Assistant Public Defender Shaylana Cleveland and Deputy Public Defender Joseph Goldstein-Breyer.

After the film will be a panel discussion featuring Woods, Cleveland, Ginzberg, Semel, retired Alameda County Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte and former juror Gamage Carter.

The event is free but please RSVP by Oct. 18 by clicking here. To learn more about the importance of juror diversity, read "Whitewashing the Jury Box." Ginzberg can be reached at