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$20 for our peers
Current pay of $10-a-day minimum for citizen jurors was established in 1959. Nearly half a century later, that is a pittance and an embarrassment.
The Senate's supplemental budget would rectify some of the absurdity of the outdated stipend by doubling the minimum to $20 a day for Superior Court jurors. This overdue adjustment of an antiquated fee system has needed public attention a long time. Obviously, $20 is not close to a real wage, either, but it might cover parking and a lunchtime sandwich. The $20 minimum would include $10 each from the state and the county. The new plan allows counties to increase their reimbursement to as much as $20 a day, with the state matching each dollar for a rip-roaring salary of $40 a day.
Too often, juries are comprised of retired people, students and those with generous employers willing to pay employees while they perform their civic duty. That creates a homogenous group of older, white jurors and misses a lot of blue-collar workers and racial minorities.
Jury duty is bothersome and inconvenient to many but a real hardship for others who cannot afford to shut down small businesses or go without a paycheck. The law says employers must make employees available but does not mandate that they pay them.
Society benefits when more people serve on a panel of peers from a broad spectrum of the community.
The budgetary fix falls short because it does nothing for municipal or district court jurors, but state Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle, is determined to address this when he can.
Twenty dollars or even $40 won't make that much of a difference because it is not a lot of money, but it will encourage more citizens to serve.
Our criminal-justice system would not function without the dedication and generosity of time of citizens who serve on juries. The new daily minimum of $20 is a start. The $3.5 million annual hit on the state budget is worth it.
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company