December 30, 2005
Juror pay raise
Starting next week, you're going to need a reason other than crappy pay to weasel out of jury duty.
Texas will no longer be among the stingiest states when it comes to pay for jury duty, raising the $6-a-day rate to $40 a day in the first increase in more than 50 years.
The increase is effective Jan. 1 under a new law designed to improve the state's low level of juror participation. They'll still get the $6 rate on the first day of jury service.
"Texas has lagged behind in fair jury fees for a long, long time," said Supreme Court Judge Nathan Hecht. "It's disingenuous to look over to them and say, 'We couldn't do this without you,' then hand them $6. At times that won't pay for parking and it certainly won't pay for lunch."
Juror pay varies greatly from state to state, with Texas near the bottom before the increase, according to the National Center for State Courts. Massachusetts and Colorado pay nothing up to the first three days, but increase that to $50 a day on the fourth day. Other states such as Iowa, Kansas and Maine pay a flat rate of $10 per day. Federal courts pay $40 per day.
Lawmakers, lawyers and judges hope the change in Texas will increase jury participation and bring more minority representation to juries. One expert said the increase should help.
"If you don't pay a decent fee for the jurors' service, you are excluding those people who can't afford to spend a day in court on $6 a day," said Phoenix attorney Patricia Refo, who oversaw an American Bar Association project on public participation in the courts. "Hopefully, this will encourage people to do their civic duty."
You can thank the firm of Vinson & Elkins, plus former Dallas Mayor and Senate candidate Ron Kirk for the assist on this one. Forty bucks a day still isn't a king's ransom, but most people could get by on it for a week if they had to, and it will more than cover costs for those of us who still get our salary while doing our aformentioned civic duty. I've said before
that I have little patience for people who whine about the inconvenience of serving on a jury. I have even less patience for them now.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 30, 2005 to Legal matters
This may forever tag me as a hopeless geek, but I like doing jury duty. In fact, given my track history of getting called for jury duty, I'm way overdue.
Jury duty is just as much a responsibility of being a citizen as voting. I have little tolerance for people who don't want to do either. I repsect the fact that some people are unable to do jury duty, but actively trying to get out of it because you don't want to do it? Not good.
I think I got paid $30/day for the 10 days or so I was on a jury about 10 years ago, plus comped parking tickets (there's a desperate shortage of parking near the courthouse, so they told us to park in the metered municipal lot and bring the inevitable tickets to the bailiff the following day).
I think managers and personnel managers will agree that increasing an employee's pay does little to improve an employee's outlook. A positive attitude has more to do with making the experience more enjoyable. That money should instead be spent on improving the jurors overall experience: processing efficiency, variety, convenience(s), etc. For instance, consider how the gambling industry consistently returns clients who rave about their losses and can't wait to re-live their experience.
I'd settle for a bit less than $40/day, if they'd increase that first day's pay a bit. How 'bout $15 for the first day and $30/day thereafter?
I think managers and personnel managers will agree that increasing an employee's pay does little to improve an employee's outlook.
There's something to that, but keep in mind those folks are in the business of telling execs what they want to hear: that their employees don't need no stinkin' raises!
A positive attitude has more to do with making the experience more enjoyable. That money should instead be spent on improving the jurors' overall experience: processing efficiency, variety, convenience(s), etc.
And I agree. Here in Dallas, they do offer a free DART pass or reduced-rate parking, but only for the first day. At least if you get selected, the new reimbursement will cover the cost of parking or transportation for your remaining days of service, but wouldn't it be easier to provide jurors with something like a prepaid Visa, which they could use against their juror pay for those kinds of things? Along the same lines, how 'bout a special sticker that lets jurors use the HOV lanes and/or put turnpike tolls on their "tab" (don't know how practical that'd be; just brainstorming.)
And while we're at it, let's get rid of the interminable waiting, centralize courts so jurors don't have to find a different building in the afternoon than the one they went to in the morning, and lighten up on security screenings a bit! The X-ray and metal detectors can stay, but a juror responding to a summons is an unlikely terrorist, after all; does anyone really think any al-Qaida sleeper plans to wait until called for jury service, then whip out a pen-knife and start slashing away at fellow jurors until they get shot?
Last time I served jury duty the 6.00 didn't even pay my parking. Thankfully, my salary was covered by my employer so I didn't lose wages like a lot of people.
Of course now I work downtown so I could use my office permit and just walk to the courthouse. But I doubt the prosecution would pick a bleeding heart social worker...