Jurors as Second-Class Citizens
Recently, I blogged about Professor Robert Martin’s article about his experience serving as a juror. He makes another point in his article that is worth discussing:
[J]urors might easily conclude that they receive second-rate treatment – despite platitudes extolling their invaluable contributions. In our case, for instance, we were informed that the trial would be extended an extra day to accommodate a physician scheduled to testify for the defense. Yet neither the judge nor lawyers bothered to inquire whether that accommodation would conflict with jurors’ schedules, thus ultimately forcing one (unemployed) juror to cancel a job interview and another to rearrange long-standing travel plans.
Other seemingly small matters proved irritating. Jurors were cautioned that they could not drink water during the trial because it would be “distracting” . . . . Moreover, during the morning and afternoon “coffee” breaks, jurors were sequestered in the back room without any amenities – including coffee. And needless to say, jurors were keenly aware that the five- dollar per diem compensation that they would eventually receive would barely cover the cost of lunch, let alone the cost of gas for travel to and from the courthouse.
Yet, paradoxically, when it ultimately came time to render a verdict, our jury was then bestowed with immense power and responsibility.
We subsidize our legal system on what is essentially free labor, for we barely pay jurors for their time. Many employers still pay the salaries of people on jury duty (though not all employers), but even under these circumstances, somebody else (employers) are subsidizing the system.
Imagine the juror who is self-employed and must sit on a two-week contract dispute. She might ask: Why should I be forced to help these two parties resolve their dispute? Why should I, one who has little expertise in their business, contract law, or anything related to their case, be the one to resolve it? Why should I have to sacrifice my time and two weeks of earning money to help these people solve their squabble?
If we are going to have a lay jury system, shouldn’t we at least have society pick up the costs rather than slough them off on randomly-selected people? Shouldn’t we pay jurors the true value of their time? Or at least a reasonable rate?