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Is it time to pay jurors more?

Not yet, but maybe soon.

Marilyn Burgess

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and her colleagues on Commissioners Court declined to support a proposal to increase pay for jurors and instead referred the idea for more study.

District Clerk Marilyn Burgess, a Democrat, pitched the idea of hiking juror pay from $6 to $50 for the first day of service and from $40 to $80 for any subsequent days. The hike would make Harris County jurors the highest-paid in Texas.

Burgess’s office had commissioned a study that found residents, especially people of color, said they would be more likely to show up for jury duty when summoned if the pay was higher. He proposal also included free parking for jurors.

The liberal majority that controls Commissioners Court was unconvinced. Hidalgo said she supported paying jurors more, but said Burgess had not produced any evidence showing that her proposal would help make Harris County juries more diverse. She questioned the accuracy of the district clerk’s study, which was performed by a third party.

“That’s one survey of Harris County, which is not clear to what extent the results are statistically significant, or to the extent the sample is representative,” Hidalgo said.

Budget Officer David Berry, who reports to Commissioners Court, said his office had reviewed Burgess’s proposal but did not endorse it.

[…]

Several community leaders, including from the Super Neighborhood Alliance and Mi Familia Vota, spoke in support of the pay increase. Burgess said if court members were skeptical, they could simply revert to the old system at the end of the fiscal year if it did not produce results.

She said the cost of the increases, estimated at $1.8 million in the current fiscal year, would be cheaper now because courts are holding fewer trials during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The judges have signed on in support of it. The community civic leaders say it’s the only way you’re going to get the lower socioeconomic people to appear for jury duty,” Burgess said. “We have discussed this for two years and now is the time to implement it.”

Here’s the Monday story, which previewed the item before Commissioners Court. I haven’t seen the study Burgess presented, so I can’t comment on its data. Burgess’ proposal would make the Harris County courts pay a bit more than the federal courts do for jury duty. I think this is the right direction and it doesn’t cost that much, but if Commissioners Court wants to take 30 days and review it before deciding what to do, fine. I hope that they do choose to take this up afterwards. The Press has more.

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2 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    I am fortunate that I can still get paid by my work if I go to a jury. Federal juries pay a much higher rate than the county juries. But, there are other benefits, such as you can ride METRO for FREE to your jury! It is a fascinating study in boredom to go to court, and also a study in wasted tax dollars after that Ed Emmett created a jury assembly room underground, which was destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Emmett should be forced to pay back the wasted tax dollars and perhaps he can be made to pay the higher jury cost.

    I also find it fascinating that people of color say that they would be more likely to show up for jury service if they got more money. But then everyone accuses the justice system of being racist, as all white juries acquit white killer cops. The problem is that people of color are not doing their civic duty willingly, and there needs to be a massive sociological study as to why that is. Perhaps the county sheriff department should send deputies out to round up jury scofflaws and imprison them for one week.

  2. Flypusher says:

    At the very least, waive the parking fees.