For short periods, this may be a financially manageable model; when a trial starts taking weeks, negative impacts upon the jurors become noticeable and the model breaks down. The nominal amount jurors are paid, which on average is less than the federally mandated minimum wage, causes individual economic hardship on those selected when applied over a longer trial. At least this is the logic behind two state programs, described below, that aim to reduce or eliminate such burden on participating jurors.
The Arizona Lengthy Trial Fund
Codified in Arizona Code of Judicial Administration, the Arizona lengthy trial fund (ALTF) offers lost income replacement or supplementation to petit jurors in trials lasting more than five days. In Arizona, the standard compensation for a state or local juror is $12 per day plus a mileage reimbursement. Starting after the completion of the sixth day of jury service, the ALTF provides for a retroactive increase in juror pay. The increases takes into consideration some of the differing opportunity cost of jurors by scaling the available daily pay. Retirees and the otherwise unemployed received $40 per day plus mileage reimbursement; while presently employed jurors may received up to $300 per day plus mileage reimbursement. Jurors seeking the latter must provide documentation demonstrating their lost income before being reimbursed.
The Oklahoma Lengthy Trial Fund
Adopted by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in 2005, the Oklahoma lengthy trial fund (OLTF) is similar in nature to the ALTF. Like Arizona, Oklahoma state and local jurors are paid a nominal $20 per day plus a mileage reimbursement. Starting on or after the eleventh day of jury service, the OLTF allows for the pay out of replacement or supplemental wages of up $200 per day for the remainder of the trial. Unlike the ALTF, no added financial consideration is paid to retirees and the otherwise unemployed; however, any juror deemed by the court to be suffering significant financial hardship through participation is provided $50 per day, beginning the fourth day of service and concluding the tenth day of service when wage replacement kicks in. To receive such payment, the Oklahoma juror must file a form request for reimbursement.
Model for Improvement
No program is likely to eliminate all of the financial burden placed on jurors; however, the Arizona and Oklahoma lengthy trial funds are commendable efforts to bridge the gap. Both take into consideration programs employers may have in place to cover wages by only allowing for replacement wages. Neither provides for unimpeded additional spending on juries. The principles of the programs are repeatable.
Application of similar programs for federal, state, and local courts stands to benefit all parties involved. The monetary benefit to the jurors is clear but hopefully, they also come away with better impressions of the system. In a society that places a great emphasis on income as a metric of self-worth, it should be unsurprising that jury duty often evokes negative connotations. A more positive view of jury duty is a noble goal and could increase turnout, which in turn could provide a more varied juror pool and theoretically a better jury. Oklahoma and Arizona see the benefits; other jurisdictions should too.