If you get called for jury duty, you’ll get a little extra something for your time.
For the past two years, jurors in Harris County and elsewhere have been paid $30 a day or less for every day of service after the first, on which everyone must be paid at least $6 for showing up regardless of whether they are selected to serve. That is down from the $40-a-day pay the Legislature approved in 2005, when it gave jurors their first pay raise in half a century, increasing daily compensation from $6.
In 2011, facing a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall, the Legislature slashed that daily amount, to $28 initially and then $30 in October 2012, but also promised to restore it two years later. Starting this month, jurors began making $40 a day again.
Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel, whose office oversees jury duty, is hoping the bump will encourage more people to respond to summonses, particularly low-income, retired and unemployed residents, and lead to more ethnically and socioeconomically diverse juries.
For that population, “every little bit helps to incentivize them to do their constitutional, civic duty,” said Daniel. “And while I believe there’s more that could be done to incentivize the lower economic brackets to ensure that we have a completely diverse jury pool, this is definitely a significant step in the right direction to make sure that the lower economic bracket can afford to come to perform their constitutional, civic duty.”
Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who sponsored the 2005 bill that hiked juror pay for the first time since 1954, said he is “pleased that the drastic cut to already-low juror pay has been reversed,” but that $40 still is insufficient to entice low-income residents.
“I still think it’s time for the Legislature to have a serious conversation about increasing it beyond $40,” Ellis wrote in an email. “If our state’s goal is to have a jury of our peers, we have to recognize that far too many hard-working Texans struggling to earn a living wage can’t miss a day of work for just $40.”
This is nice, but it should be noted that the increase from the current $28 to $40 is only for the days after your first day of service. If you go in and don’t get seated, you get the same $6 for your presence as before. The bump to $40 is nice and long overdue, but it’s not close to a real day’s wage for anyone who doesn’t get paid while doing jury duty. That remains a matter for the Legislature to fix, and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them. Be that as it may, as a reminder you can donate your more generous jury duty pay to a variety of good causes if you want to, and it’s as easy as going to the Juror General Information page to make it happen.