Courts Back Juror Pay Increases and Service Limits

31 December 1999

Courts Back Juror Pay Increases and Service Limits

Missouri's courts backed legislation (now signed) to increase juror pay and limit when a juror must appear.  

"We have the best judicial system in the world, " said Chief Justice William Ray Price, Jr. "The people who serve on juries deserve much of the credit for that.  Their service should be rewarded; it should not be a burden."

The public agrees, according to the American Bar Association. The 1999 ABA survey found that 80% of Americans believe that the American justice system outranks all others. More than two-thirds of Americans believe juries are the most important part.  

The State of the Judiciary message, as well as the Supreme Court's conference on building public trust and confidence in the judiciary, recommended increasing juror pay and benefits.

The legislature endorsed the message by passing Senate Bill 1, and the Governor signed it into law. The legislation improves jury service in several ways.

First, the legislation could increase jury pay.

"The state organization of all judges has, for years, been advocating an increase in juror pay," said Chief Justice Price. "Easing the financial burden of jury service enables more citizens to serve and helps to keep juries diverse and broad-based."

Jurors now receive $6.00 per day from the state, plus an amount, if any, that the county authorizes. Under the legislation, if the county authorized another $6.00, the state would match it, bringing the total compensation to $18.00 per day.

"The legislature should be commended for taking this step. It's not a huge amount of money, and of course we'd like to see more, especially for longer trials.  But, it helps to cover expenses and prevent financial hardship," said Judge Price.  

Second, the legislation gives jurors a bit more flexibility as to when they perform their jury service. Specifically, it permits the jury supervisor or board of jury commissioners to postpone a possible juror's service to a later date.  

"This means, for example, that a person who has a non-refundable airline ticket or seasonal employment (perhaps a teacher or a construction worker) may be able to shift their service to a date that is more convenient," said Greene County circuit court Judge Miles Sweeney, who supports the provision.

Finally, the legislation will limit how long a person must sit at the courthouse and wait to be chosen for jury duty. A person would not have to appear for more than two days, unless he or she is selected to serve on a jury.  This is known as "Two Days, 1 Trial." This provision is not be mandatory until January 1, 2005, when the juror selections system is automated. Still, courts may begin following the rule as soon as they are able.