March 12, 2007

The Problem of Jury Duty

Being as that my wife was selected in the jury pool today for a trial tomorrow, I figured I would take a quick stab at my issues with jury duty in America, in general. Take as a caveat that I've never been on a jury, nor have I even made the selection pool.

First off, in Texas, jurors are paid $40 a day for jury duty. To an 18-year-old college student, that might sound like a sweet deal, but it should be noted that $40/day is less than minimum wage for an 8-hour day, which is an insult to just about anyone who isn't on Welfare who gets a jury summons. Oh... and they don't pay you blow your Monday morning in the selection process, regardless of if you're picked or not.

Secondly, in most states, businesses aren't compelled to pay you for missed time, they're just forbidden to fire you. Look, I understand the capitalistic basis of the American economy as well as anyone... but if the system argues that the time of a worker is worth money and an employer shouldn't have to pay employees for time that they don't work, it stands to follow that the legal system should see at least some value in a juror's time and pay said juror accordingly.

However, being as that the above enumerated problems have not yet been addressed, anyone who makes a decent wage at work is going to have real issues missing work just to go sit on a jury. Patriotism is a good and fine thing, but it really doesn't buy one's groceries. Thus, anyone with a brain and a job who isn't going to pay him for lost time does his level best to avoid jury duty. And who remains? Individuals who have never been on juries before (and thus are clueless as to how to avoid jury duty), people who want the $40, those without the cynicism to avoid jury duty, and those who can either afford to miss work or have a nice enough job that they're already being paid for jury duty.

Allow me to address these groups one at a time and point to the fact that the best candidates for the jury pool are the ones you've eliminated already. First, people who have never been in a jury pool don't realize that they have the means to get out of it and thusly they may (or may not) make good jurors... it's a crap-shoot. Second are the people who actually want the $40, and no offense, but that particular subset is largely limited to those who are either too young, too inexperienced, or too indigent to get a job. Thirdly (and I'm working out of order), we have those with the education and/or experience to have a job that will grant time off for jury duty... which is to say a white-collar, mid to high-end job. Which is good that it usually indicates life experience, thinking skills and a logical mind and bad in that one of the two lawyers involved will spend his or her time sniping all of these individuals out of the jury pool. Oh, and lastly, we have our guileless Polyannas who think that they should bend over backwards for the judicial system. I'm not going to criticize them at length except for to note that whenever you find yourself in a situation where you're doing the government a favor, it defies logic. It's like donating money to the government... what the hell are you thinking?

Posted by Vengeful Cynic at March 12, 2007 04:48 PM | TrackBack