The attempt in Texas to increase jurors’ daily pay for the first time in half a century is just one initiative across the nation to deal with the same problem: how to entice people into jury service. The Christian Science Monitor reports that a wide range of ideas is being tested, from going outside the usual drivers license and voter rolls, to removing occupational and hardship exemptions, to shortening jury service, and allowing one discretionary postponement. Some states are making the jury experience more interactive by allowing jurors to take notes and ask questions. Others are trying to make it more convenient, providing private workspace and child care.
But while jury reform is speeding forward, the thorny issue of pay is only now being addressed in earnest. In some places, parking costs more than what a juror is paid per day. In Texas, the new bill would increase jury pay from $6 a day to $40 daily after the first day of service. Jury pay and participation are related, experts say. El Paso County, for example, began paying its jurors $40 a day in 1999 and saw participation rates double. Some places are going even further. Arizona was the first state to enact the lengthy-trial provision of the Jury Patriotism Act. If a civil trial lasts longer than 10 days, the lengthy-trial fund compensates jurors who aren’t being paid in full by their employers. Louisiana, Mississippi and Oklahoma have also passed versions of the lengthy-trial funds.