1. Jurors and Venire Members are Grossly Underpaid.
According to the County Website, Dallas County pays jurors $6.00 for the first day and $36 for each additional day of service. Jurors are expected to arrive by 8:30 AM and will leave around 5:00 PM if they serve. That's about 70 cents an hour for the first day, and $4.23 an hour for each additional day. Contrast this with the State of New York, which mandates a flat payment of $40 per day, and an additional $6 if the trial lasts more than thirty days. Unlike other forms of serving, like joining the military or voting, serving as a juror is not optional. Dallas County should catch up and start compensating its citizens for their time.
2. More Jurors will Show if Better Paid.
Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion of Powers v. Ohio, 499 U.S. 400, 407 (1991), eloquently described jury duty as
"[P]reserv[ing] the democratic element of the law . . . . [and] for most citizens the honor and privilege of jury duty is their most significant opportunity to participate in the democratic process." (emphasis added).
Meanwhile, actual jurors described the honor and privilege of jury duty as
"a day without pay, since if I'm not working, I'm not making any money[,]" and
"[Jury duty is] not only some eye-rolling bother but a potentially devastating fate to be avoided at all costs."
Some may consider this a bit dramatic, but the results are clear. A study conducted by the SMU Law Review and the Dallas Morning News (Ted M. Eades, Revisiting the Jury System in Texas: A Study of the Jury Pool in Dallas County, 54 SMU L. Rev. 1813 (2001)) found that only 13% of jury candidates had a household income of less than $35,000 a year, while nearly 40% of Dallas County residents fit within that category. Id. at 1815. The same study found that of the 13,612 juror summonses sent out mid February of the year 2000, a whopping 11,398 failed to show for jury duty. See id. at 1814. And 44% of the no-shows, or about 5,015 people, had an annual household income of less than $35,000. See id. at 1816. Finally, the study found that 85.8% of those who attended jury duty received full wages for the missed day of work, while only 56.9% of the no-shows would have received full wages—meaning the no-shows were three times more likely to receive no wages for the missed day of work. Id. In short, many of the poor cannot afford to serve.
3. Jurors will Better Represent the Community if More of Them Show.
According to the US Census, an estimated 18.8% of Dallas County residents lived below the poverty line from 2008 to 2012. Yet these same individuals are unlikely to show for jury duty. Meanwhile, many in poverty face criminal charges and incarceration, in what Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western calls a 'Poverty Trap.' Although the 6th Amendment doesn't specifically provide a right to a jury among one's peers, it seems unjust to have a high proportion of poor peoples' fate determined by a disproportionate amount of middle class and wealthy people who can afford to serve. This apparent injustice may open up Dallas County to a potential lawsuit. Finally, paying venire members and jurors more is the right thing to do. People from different economic backgrounds will likely have different perspectives. Having a greater spectrum of views should diversify the jury pool, which could increase just outcomes for defendants in Dallas County.
Paying jurors and venire members more money will increase the amount of poor people showing up for jury duty because it will allow them to afford taking a day off from work. Other counties and other states have already come to this conclusion. Dallas County needs to catch up.