Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is Jury Duty Worth it?

A common phrase heard in the courtroom during jury selection is “Judge, I am a (insert profession here) if I miss a day or a week of work then (enter a multitude of consequences here), I must be allowed to be excused.” Many individuals feel that what they do on a daily or weekly basis is more important to society than the next person. Everybody understands the concerns related to jury duty: missed work, lost money, lost time. However, the degree to which all jurors suffer from this is lost on the average person who can only see the hardships that face them individually for their jury duty, and do not see the issues facing their fellow man who faces the same possible responsibility. One of the issues that faces those who are trying to escape jury duty is the fact that serving jury duty just loses them too much money.

The Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code provides that a juror cannot be fired or face adverse action from his employer for going to jury duty, but it also does not provide for any additional pay from the employer for missed time due to jury duty. While a juror is paid $6 a day during the selection process and between $40 and $50 a day after being selected, if that juror was never selected, minimum wage would dictate $58 a day and the “average employee” makes $170.64 a day according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These lost wages can be devastating for an employed worker, for every week of trial the average Texas employee will lose over $600. The monetary losses for small business owners, or others that rely only on themselves for their income, can also be catastrophic. For a small business owner, or a professional practitioner every day missed is not only lost profit, but also the possibility of lost future business.

But what can we do about it? One of the things that the courts try to do is take as much of the financial burden off of the juror as possible. The Texas Judicial Council had a subcommittee on juries try and tackle many issues, including the financial burden placed on potential jurors. The report pointed out many of the issues that existed in 2001, and many of their suggestions have been implemented in counties across Texas, such as parking reimbursement, mileage reimbursement, meals, and child care. However many counties have not followed the recommendations. Travis County in particular does not reimburse parking, nor does it provide parking spots near the courthouse, the travel to jury duty can be as daunting as missing time altogether. 

The expenses necessary to properly accommodate, and compensate jurors are too vast to accomplish what is preferred by the jurors. In 2009 alone there was an estimated 154,000 jury trials  just counting the jurors that actually served, that is between 924,000 and 1.8 million people that would need to be compensated further by the government. However, as noted in the A Report of the Subcommittee on Juries Submitted to the Texas Judicial Council, if we could do a better job educating the public as to what juries do and how it is our civic duty to serve, it would help to eliminate the disdain the American public has for serving as a cog in of the most important systems that being an American has afforded us.

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