Sunday, May 22, 2005

Jury Duty Thoughts

Having just read an article on how Texas is rethinking jury duty and how it's citizens are compensated and having just received my own jury summons leads me to write this.
When I was previously summoned for jury duty one of two things happened. When it was for grand jury,I was chosen to sit and in one instance made foreman. When summoned for petit jury and interviewed, I was dismissed after describing my technical background. It seems that lawyers don't appreciate people serving on the jury who are trained to think in terms of facts as opposed to emotions. Beyond this obvious bias against "truth" seekers is the matter of unjust compensation when placed on a sitting jury. The Judge is obviously well compensated, as are the other staff present in the courtroom. The lawyers and the prosecutor are well paid with the lawyers pulling in hundreds of dollars per hour and in some cases substantial pieces of any monetary settlement. Now we look at the jury, who are told they have the most important task in the courtroom. If they are lucky they get 12 cents per mile travel expenses and $5.00 compensation and they are told to be certain that they declare this"income" on their tax returns! Since the costs to operate my car are well in excess of 12 cents per mile, it seems logical to declare this loss as a charitable contribution . However, just try and put that on your tax return and wait for the auditor to call.
All of which brings me back to the matter of compensation. If the jury is so critical and necessary then the members should be compensated at least at their current/last income rate or better yet at the average rate of the lawyers present in the courtroom. Just imagine the jury pool that would become available under these circumstances.


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