You get a jury summons in the mail and, good citizen that you are, show up at the courthouse. You're subjected to hours of waiting, with nothing but Sandra Bullock movies
to pass the time. Then someone's fate is quite literally placed in your hands. Sometimes you have to miss work for days — or even weeks.
At the end of it all, how does Florida show you its appreciation? By paying you a measly $15 to $30 a day.
Sure, serving on a jury is your civic duty. But Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez thinks the state could try a little harder to show jurors their service is valued when they have to miss work to keep the wheels of justice turning. That's why the Miami Democrat is proposing to raise juror pay to match the state's minimum wage of $8.10 per hour. His bill, SB 1606, would mean a base rate of about $65 a day.
"I just think that it makes the state look cheap," Rodriguez, an attorney, says of the current pay. "People are working hard and people are doing their part of the civic duty in democracy, and I don't think they should come away with the feeling that the state is cheap."
Florida's juror compensation hasn't been changed since 1992, Rodriguez says, and it shows. Under current law, jurors are paid $15 for their first three days, but only if they're not already being paid by an employer. Beginning on day four, everyone receives $30 a day.
Juror pay varies by state, but Florida is stingier than most. Among states that pay more are Arkansas, Indiana, and South Dakota, which give jurors $50 a day, while Nevada, New York, and West Virginia pay $40 a day. Federal jurors start at $40 a day.
Under Rodriguez's proposal, jurors would be paid $97 a day after ten days, and compensation would be adjusted in the future based on inflation. The money would come from the general revenue fund.
Florida isn't alone in its struggle to get jurors to show up. Absenteeism has been enough of a problem that some counties have threatened jail time for those who skip out. Rodriguez doesn't expect his bill to solve that issue. He says his goal really goes back to "the cheap thing."
"I think it's important to send a message to jurors who are performing a really important role in maintaining our democracy and performing their civic duty that it is important to our state that you're doing that for us," he says.