Some 3 out of 4 people in Dallas County, Tex., who receive jury summonses toss it in the trash, ignore it or otherwise skip going to the courthouse. A new state law may improve this dismal state of affairs. The bill signed by Gov. Greg Abbott more than triples the minimum payment for the first day of jury duty from $6 to $20. That’s significant because most people are discharged after the first day when they’re not selected or cases get settled, reports the Dallas Morning News. If someone must serve longer than that, the new law increases pay for each subsequent day of service from $40 to $58, a more than 40 percent increase.
Jurors will be paid enough to cover the price of parking and get a sandwich from the courthouse cafeteria as they spend all day waiting to be sent to assigned courts and sitting through a lengthy voir dire on hard wooden benches. The bill makes hundreds of changes to the law, all intended to make the justice system run more efficiently. Among the most significant changes is creation of 12 new district courts statewide, including ones in Collin and Denton counties. Prospective jurors are often taking precious time off from work. While state law forbids employers from firing those called to jury duty, they’re not required to pay them. Juror compensation isn’t intended to cover lost wages, but it’s long been insufficient to reimburse jurors for the costs associated with getting to the courthouse and staying there all day. Ten years ago the compliance rate on juror summonse was 20 percent. Judge Stephanie Huff, who serves as local administrative district judge, says that has crept up to 23.5 percent. She hopes the increased pay will help even more.