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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jury-duty pay cut is the latest slap to state's justice system

Serving on a jury has never been glamorous, but jury duty is quickly turning from an often mundane and time-consuming civic exercise into an insulting one.

As a result of the $19 million shortfall faced by Minnesota's judicial system, the per-diem received by jurors will be cut from $20 to $10 (along with mileage and other reimbursements) starting on Aug. 4. The move is projected to save $1.1 million annually.

It wasn't long ago that jurors in Minnesota were paid $30 per day. With the most recent cut, jurors here are compensated at well below the national average, and for far less than the $40 that jurors in federal trials get.

Jury duty isn't exactly a sexy gig to begin with: It requires people to plan tentatively for trials that might not even take place, and to miss work and endure long, often tedious proceedings when they do take place. Employers are supposed to give workers paid time off when they're called for jury duty, but not all do. It's a no-win for those unlucky enough to be chosen for what should be a valuable way to engage the man on the street in the legal process.

Is cutting an already paltry stipend in half any way to ensure that Minnesota's trial juries will consist of intelligent, engaged citizens? And if $10 per day is all the state can spare, why not cut out the payment entirely before it's reduced to $5, then $2?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If the courts have the power to create and enforce consent decrees against school systems to prevent the schools from violating students' constitutional rights, why can't those same courts create and enforce consent decrees against the other two branches of the government to prevent the other branches from starving and choking to death the third branch of our democracy? If the loss of a meaningful judicial branch is where this is leading, how does that not impinge everybody's constitutional rights?

The courts need to stand and fight for themselves -- This is no time for Minnesota nice.