Dec 19, 2008

The financial impact of jury service

I had jury duty today. As an attorney, I have a thorough grasp of how our justice system operates, and the importance of jurors within that system. They're crucial. It's that simple.

And in Los Angeles County, jurors are paid $0 for their first day of service, and $15 for each subsequent day. For the average trial of 5 to 7 days, the financial burden is probably manageable. For one thing, many employers will pay for at least some of those days.

But while I was there, the staff pre-screened jurors for their ability to serve on a 90-day trial that would begin in late January. Jurors whose employers pay for less than 90 days were automatically excluded. I'd guess that the eligible jurors were retired, unemployed, or work for the government or large corporations. After all, who else could afford to serve on a jury for that long?

Ninety days at $15 per day comes out to $1350. That's a pretty paltry salary for three months' work. Not many people could afford that - and the pay will probably be less than $1350, because I would guess the 90-day estimate includes weekends and holidays. I think there were only nine people in the entire room who said they could serve on that jury - and I can't help but wonder what the financial impact of being selected would have.

If their employers pay for unlimited jury service, then the jurors probably give the $1350 to their employers in exchange for their regular salary. And if the jurors are retired, then I presume the $1350 would simply be additional income that supplements their Social Security or other retirement income. I have no idea what impact jury pay has on unemployment benefits, but I do know the income is taxable.

Could you afford to serve on a jury for three months?


Bargain Briana said...

No way! That wouldn't even cover one month's mortgage!

If you were self employed or owned your own business, I think the financial impact would be huge too!

Clean ClutterFree Simple said...

Jurors in my area get $10 a day. That pay rate hasn't changed in almost 40 years.

It means that we no longer have a "jury of peers" since as you point out, only a small segment of the population can serve on longer trials.

Any idea if the ABA has a task force on this issue?

Camille said...

Huh. Very interesting. As Clean ClutterFree Simple points out, it would be hard to get a jury of your peers unless you are retired or unemployed. I wonder if the courts have ever addressed this on appeal....

adrienne said...

It seems that any full time (unpaid) caregiver would be especially troubled by jury duty.

I couldn't pay to replace the services I provide (care of an infant and preschooler) with $15/day. $15 probably wouldn't even cover after-school care for more than one child.

It would be the same situation if I were caring for any vulnerable individual (ill, elderly, disabled).

A friend was called for jury duty with when her child was an infant. She was not allowed to take the child to jury selection (even though the baby was breastfed and under 2 months) nor would the judge excuse her in advance (even with a written medical verification that her daughter was breastfeeding). It was pretty upsetting to think that she would be forced to find childcare for such a young infant when she wasn't a good candidate for jury duty at that time.

Our baby group started calling the judge, officers of his political party, and other political leaders from our area. The county courts ended up changing their policy regarding breastfeeding mothers, but I wonder how things would go for someone (unpaid) caring for a cancer patient. They would probably still be required to appear for selection and bear the cost of professional care.

Anonymous said...

Back in the summer, I received a notice from the U.S. District Court regarding jury duty. I didn't notice what the pay was per day but I did notice that the time that you are required to be on call is 18 MONTHS! If that isn't bad enough, the court is more than 75-90 minutes away! I asked to be excused because of significant hearing loss and haven't heard from them since. I think the length of service is ridiculous. I also think they should get their prospective jurors from areas within 30 minutes of the courts (we live near Washington D.C. so there are plenty of people). I'd be in the car 2.5-3 hours just in driving time each day!

Twinsmom said...

I couldn't even afford it for more than a week, much less 3 months. My employer doesn't reimburse for jury duty, and we have to either take the time as vacation days or unpaid. I was in the pool to be called several years ago but thankfully cases were settled before we had to report for jury selection. Pay was $12-15 a day.