By JASON KRAFT
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan jurors would soon receive their first pay increase since 2003 if a bill on compensation passes, a representative said.
Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, introduced a bill last year that would increase juror compensation by $5 per full day and $2.50 per half day. They currently make $25 for a full day and $12.50 for a half day on the first day, then $40 and $20, respectively, on subsequent days.
“Jurors aren’t even making enough to pay for their parking,” Lucido said. “When you look at the economics of it, it’s just not fair. That’s why people have an attitude toward jury duty.”
Courts throughout the state are working on numerous ways to encourage jurors to show up for service, said John Nevin, communications director for the Michigan Supreme Court.
Among the measures desperate courts are using to get more jurors to show up include offering them Uber rides and paying them immediately with pre-paid debit cards – as opposed to making them wait for a check in the mail, Nevin said.
“Courts are taking a lot of steps in that regard,” he said.
The bill has had a hearing, and is awaiting a vote by the Judiciary Committee, of which Lucido is the majority vice-chair. It can’t be voted on until approval of another bill that would include the new compensation figures without raising the total allocated.
Michigan spent $5,365,000 on jurors in 2014. Had the bill been in effect, the additional cost to the state would have been $1,005,000.
However, there is no need to increase the funding for juror compensation.
“Every year, the state shovels money in to the juror compensation fund and every year, there is a surplus,” Lucido said. That money would be better spent on increasing the wages of Michigan jurors, as opposed to going back in to the general fund, Lucido said.
The companion bill should be ready by the beginning of May he said.
Increasing their pay should encourage them to show up, bucking a statewide trend of absentee jurors, Lucido said.
Jurors failing to show is “certainly more of a problem now than before,” Nevin said.
The problem can be found statewide, including many of Michigan’s rural areas.
“We do see a trend where people are not showing up,” said Dawn Reo, senior circuit court clerk for the Cheboygan County Clerk.
The state did not collect data on absentee jurors, Nevin said. In an effort to enhance performance measures, however, they began this year.
The Trial Court Performance Measures Committee Implementation Plan of Michigan includes a measure – jury management – which was designed to assess the effectiveness of jury management in Michigan courts starting in 2016. The measurements include juror yield, percentage of jurors summoned who were told to report, percentage of jurors that are sent for jury selection and percentage of the panel used. Juror yield is the percentage of jurors who qualified and are available to serve based on questionnaires.
The number-one way to keep jurors coming is through education in K-12 schools, Nevin said. “Students need to understand the process, and be proud to serve,” he said. “It seems like a burden, but most people walk out of jury duty and find the experience very uplifting.”
Lucido agrees. He recently proposed a bill requiring all high school students to pass a civics exam before they graduate. The exam would be similar to the one used by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
“We’ve got people graduating high school that don’t even know who Thomas Jefferson is, or what the constitution is,” Lucido said. “Civics is very important.”
That bill has passed through committee, and awaits a vote from the full House.
By JASON KRAFT