Texas jurors would get a big pay raise under a bill designed to increase participation on juries and have them better reflect a cross-section of communities. The Texas has given preliminary approval to a bill that would raise court costs for those convicted of crimes to boost juror pay from $6 a day to $40. “Low-income and minority Texans are drastically under-represented on our juries at levels that jeopardize the constitutional legitimacy of many convictions,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, the bill’s sponsor. “Texas ranks dead last in the nation in what we pay our jurors.”
Counties that have increased the pay of jurors have found dramatic increases in juror participation. In El Paso County, which raised the pay of jurors to $40 a day in 1999, participation more than doubled. In New York City, participation tripled. Texas first agreed to pay jurors in 1866 because citizens stopped showing up for no pay at all. Vinson & Elkins attorney Mark Curriden, a member of the American Bar Association’s commission on the future of the jury, said the law firm backs increased diversity and participation in the jury system. “We just believe jury participation is at an all-time low and continuing to decline,” he said.