September 25, 2022

Help Wanted – Pay Is $15 Per Day

Who The Hell Will Work For $15 A Day?

No, this is not an advertisement for help by some Chinese assembly plant – this is a job posting by local and federal courthouses.

Call to Jury Duty Strikes Fear of Financial Ruin

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — One by one, jurors answered Judge Robert A. Rosenberg when he asked whether serving a trial of four to five weeks would be a hardship. Chemelle Charles, a nurse, said it definitely would: “I’m the only one working in my house right now.”

Ranae Johnson, the jury commissioner for Bonneville County, Idaho, said that she typically summoned 400 people for each two-week term of service, but that lately she “had to pop it up to 500” because of rising numbers of economic hardship claims. “We’re hearing it more than we used to,” Ms. Johnson said. “A lot more.”

She read from her notes of recent calls. “I was laid off, have no car, no job and no friends that can even bring me there,” one caller had argued. Another said, “I cannot even afford the gas to have to come down there.”

Judge Rosenberg, in Florida, said in an interview that when the “pervasive cloud of financial insecurity” reaches the jury room, “a judge has to be sensitive to the economic times.”

Judge Rosenberg agreed. He could force more jurors into the box than he does, he said, but a miserable juror who is straining to get back to work might be too eager to reach a quick verdict instead of engaging in a full and careful deliberation. “That’s not the juror you want,” he said. “That’s not justice.”

“We might actually have jurors who are looking to get the money,” Mr. Benefiel said, which amounts to $15 a day for the first three days and $30 thereafter.

Is Justice Being Denied By Underpaying Jurors?

I doubt that most people are convinced that it is their “civic duty” to spend weeks on a jury trial while foregoing their normal paycheck in lieu of $15 per day.  That is simply asking too much of people especially for those living paycheck to paycheck.

The problem for the legal system is that the juror selection process  is obviously being distorted by eliminating those who have full time jobs.  The result of this jury selection distortion is no doubt of interest to both plaintiff and defendant, although it is not clear who ends up benefiting.  If working people are routinely being excluded from jury selection, does this result in a denial of your rights to plead your case in front of a “jury of your peers”?  The thought processes of a jury that is comprised of unemployed, retired or other nonworking individuals may be less inclined to have a impartial view of a prosperous defendant and ultimately preempt a fair jury decision.

Pay What The Job Is Worth

The most obvious answer for overcoming the financial objections to jury service is to provide fair compensation to jurors instead of the ridiculous $15 per day compensation.  If a working person is called for jury duty, pay them the same amount that they would have received at their regular job.  If the prospective juror is unemployed offer a fair rate of compensation.  Money talks as always.

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