Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Pay Raise that Doesn't Increase Juror Participation Rates

The Dallas Morning News reported on May 24, 2005, that “of the 128,438 Dallas County residents summoned for jury duty from January to May 1 [2005], only about 19 percent showed up for duty, according to county records.”[1] Meanwhile, El Paso county had implemented a juror pay raise, increasing juror pay from $6 a day to $40  (page 9) a day starting the second day of service. This dramatically increased the amount of people showing up to juror summons from 22% to 46%. Partly in response to the success in El Paso, Texas passed a law providing counties with additional funding to pay jurors serving more than one day. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 61.0015. Many hoped that this pay raise would result in an increase in juror participation similar to that seen in El Paso County. 

Unfortunately, this did not happen in Dallas County. Instead, participation rates in Dallas County dropped. Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) collected raw data from thirteen counties in a study titled Texas Jury Participation (page 4). The study collected data from ten different counties for the years of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 through the use of public information requests. Id. Anne Brabham, the Dallas County Jury manager, responded to one of their requests in an email summarizing the data by providing the following participation rates: fifteen percent for 2010, fourteen percent for 2011, sixteen percent for 2012, and nineteen percent for 2013 (page 31). Anne Brabham further explained that “[t]he exemptions, disqualification, postponed and non-deliverables are not used to determine the show rate.” Id. 

Nineteen percent for 2013 is shocking when remembering that the Dallas Morning News reported the same participation rate in 2005 as justification for passing legislation to increase juror pay. In short, the participation rate has barely changed despite the over 500% pay raise that Texas has given to Dallas County jurors.

So what happened? The reality is that this pay raise does nothing to increase juror participation, and El Paso county's results were likely susceptible to outside factors. Although compensation for subsequent days increased, the pay for the first day—six dollars—did not. This is important because participation rates depend on those who show the first day, especially for counties like Dallas that implement the “One Day/One Trial” system. Subsequent days are less important because at that point the jury is selected and the court will hold anyone who fails to reappear in contempt. In other words, the payment for showing up for jury duty never changed between 2005 and 2013. 

If Dallas County truly wants to get serious about increasing juror participation rates, it needs to rethink how it uses limited resources. Paying those selected for jury duty an extra $34 a day for subsequent days of service is nice, but it ultimately has no impact on whether a summoned citizen decides to show up at the courthouse.

[1] Robert Tharp, Hoping jury bill pays off: Dallas County: Officials look to increase turnout with proposed raiseDallas Morning News, May 24, 2005available at http://nl.newsbank.com/ (click on Texas; then click on Dallas Morning News; click advanced search; search for above headline).

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