Bill would keep jury information private

A state Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would keep certain personal information prospective jurors share on court questionnaires private.

Senate Bill 353 sponsored by Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport, now heads to the full Senate for further consideration.

Caddo District Judge Brady O’Callaghan, a supporter of the bill, has said jurors are concerned that personal information such as medical problems, religious preference, whether they have been a victim of a crime or whether a relative has committed a crime would become public.

The bill has come under fire from individuals and groups pushing for more transparency.

Peter Kovacs, The Advocate’s editor, told the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that the American court system was designed to be open to the public. He said the bill would move Louisiana “away from the ideals of the founding fathers.”

Peacock contended that his bill would be no different than the way federal courts treat information provided by prospective jurors. He said he’d be willing to work with the bill’s opponents before the legislation reaches the full Senate for a vote.