Unemployed seek jury duty for pay, but it's not worth it

Some unemployed people are so anxious to work that they're volunteering for jury duty and the minimal pay that goes with it, according to a New York Post story.

As someone who recently spent four boring and frustrating days sitting on a jury, the $30 that I'll get wasn't worth the hassle and won't make me volunteer for it, no matter how underemployed I am.

Other than the civic duty involved, it's a waste of time as far as getting paid. My recent jury duty netted me $1.53 per hour.

Besides, if I was a lawyer I wouldn't want a juror who was there for the money and would be likely to extend deliberations a few more days for some extra pay.

The Post reports that the chief clerk of the jury division for Manhattan has received about 20 calls since May by people asking if they could become jurors.

"People are calling up, saying, 'Look, I lost my job; now would be a good time for me to serve.' Not that $40 will pay the bills, but it's something," chief clerk Vincent Homenick told the Post.

"The jury pool is also more diverse than normal right now," Homenick said. "We're getting a lot of Wall Streeters and other professionals. It's not your typical jury of civil servants."

Getting paid $40 a day is outstanding as far as jury service goes. I live in California, where I'll be paid $10 a day for my jury service, although the first day isn't paid. So I'll get $30 plus one-way mileage for my three paid days on a jury. For a 6.5-hour day, which doesn't include time for lunch, I earned $1.53 per hour.

I should have been a juror in Manhattan, where a $40 daily fee would equate to $6.15 an hour for 6.5 hours of work and a 1.5 hour lunch break. And there are plenty of breaks during a trial where jurors are sent to the hallway to wait.

Whether is $10 a day or $40 a day, I still don't think it's enough money to justify being a juror if you're unemployed. While you won't get paid if you're out searching for a job, in the long run I think your time being unemployed is better spent looking for work and networking than sitting in a courtroom for $1.53 an hour, or even $6.15 an hour.

And if you're employed, remember that your employer must pay you and may decide to keep your jury pay.

The jury I was on ended up not making a decision and was a "hung jury" because one juror didn't agree that the drunken driver was driving his truck. It was a simple case that was supposed to take a few days, but dragged on because she didn't think there was enough evidence.

It was a frustrating experience and made me believe that if America wants a fair legal system, it should start paying jurors real wages, say $20 an hour, and get people who really want to be there. Otherwise, defendants are likely to face juries such as the one I was on, where almost everyone was anxious to get out of there and get it over with -- including the lone dissenting juror on a simple DUI case.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be reached at www.AaronCrowe.net
Read Full Story

From Our Partners