Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I just received $10 from the State of New Jersey as compensation for the two days I spent sitting in the basement of the Monmouth County Courthouse as a juror earlier this month. I figure it cost me $14 in gas alone to drive to Freehold and back those two days. I'm going to give the money to Anna Little's campaign on Friday.

The experience was not a complete waste. Turns out a guy I grew up with in Bergenfield was also summoned. It was nice catching up with him. The computer randomly selected me for one jury panel for a civil trial. About 30 people were selected to go the the court room where the computer randomly selects 6 people to be interviewed by the judge. The judge and the attorneys excuse jurors based on their answers or whatever. That jury was empaneled with only two jurors being excused. I wasn't one of the 8 randomly selected. Too bad. I went to college with the judge. It would have been nice to catch up with him too. I bet he earned more than $10 for being there.

This was the third time in my life I'd been summoned to jury duty. The only time, so far, I didn't try to get out of it. The first time, some 25 years ago in Essex County I showed up, made up a bs excuse and was sent on my way. The second time I plead hardship. I wrote the court that my business could not operate without me. Too bad was the response. On the appointed day I faxed the court a letter saying that if I had to appear for jury duty I was going to have to lay off three people. If they wanted me to do that they could come get me. No one came. Since I have already laid off most of my staff this time, I just complied, even though I couldn't imagine that I would actually be selected to sit on a jury.

A few years back one of my employees was selected to sit on a grand jury. Every Thursday for what seemed like forever we were shorthanded. It worked out for her, because I paid her and she got her stipend which covered her gas.

There were several hundred people sitting in the courthouse basement the two days I was there. I'm guessing 600. I heard a jury worker complain they were short people. They must have been. I forgot to go the first day. They called me at 9:30 and I went right over.

There might be some people for whom the $5 per day is adequate compensation to serve on jury duty. That's hard to imagine. It was $5 per day some 20 years ago too. Accounting for inflation, that is probably about $.86. The State of New Jersey is in financial straights. It is not likely that juror compensation of $5 per day plus a cup of coffee is going to be increased any time soon.

To make it more interesting and increase compliance, the court should give jurors the option of pooling their $5 per day. The computer could randomly select one juror to get all the money from those who chose to pool. At the end of the day the winning juror's name would be announced. That person would get $3000 for the day and the rest of the people wouldn't miss their $5.


R said...

Well I am glad to see that you showed up to perform one of the most important civic duties a citizen may perform, short of employment in public service.

Many conservatives may look to a news report about an abberant verdict, or in some way respond to information published in connection with a lobbying effort, and cry loudly about the need for tort reform. Yet, behind every excessive verdict is a wrong thinking jury.

I can tell you that in picking a jury, the Judge will not seat somebody that really does not want to be there. As a lawyer, I do not want that either, because it always leads to trouble. As it stands now, all you have to say to get excused is that it will be a burden to my business. Yet small business owners are the very ones who have their heads screwed on the right way - the very people whose ability to do business is put in the greatest jeopardy by unfair verdicts.

So art, your focus on what you reimbursement was, a what's in it for me mentality, is all wrong. Jury service is not just a civic duty. It is an opportunity to make sure that we as a society allocate private capital to make goodfor our mistakes in a fair way. Everybody has skin in that game.

ambrosiajr said...

I was on a state grand jury 2 years ago and it was a fascinating experience. Loved every minute of it.

James Hogan said...

You get $10 to hear other people's story? Doesn't seem so bad. When you're a (grand-jury) witness, you get $1 (according to the clerk who I asked - to park and board your horse) to rat on your friends or enemies.

On a separate note, I've always thought that the unemployed, and there are plenty of them at all ranges of the income/education scale who are sitting around doing nothing these days, could make good jurors - and the state could keep their few $s since they are already paying these people.

from 1971:

From the Jury FAQ:
If I've been determined to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in NJ, do I remain eligible for those benefits when I serve as a petit juror, grand juror, or State grand juror?

Yes, unemployment benefits are not affected by service as a juror because NJ Statute 43:21-4(c)(5) protects those benefits during juror service. That statute states the following:

(5) An unemployed individual, who is otherwise eligible, shall not be deemed unavailable for work or ineligible solely by reason of the individual's attendance before a court in response to a summons for service on a jury.

If an employment interview is scheduled on a day on which you need to report for juror service, advise the Jury Manager in advance, if possible, and be prepared to provide verification of the interview.

Good one! said...

a very funny post, Art, and a good reflection of how fragile and sometimes inexplicable the business of our freedom and justice can be!.. yet, what is the alternative?.. unfortunately, it is the current Administration's daily assaults on our individualism, liberty, private property and freedoms as outlined in our founding documents, that scare me the most.. this new judge they will confirm for him,( shame on any R's that vote for her!), will go right along with Nobama on this path to total gov't. control.. it is something I and many others never thought we'd see happen.. we MUST stop it/them!..

Mark said...

I sat on a Freehold jury in '06. What surprised me was the judges briefing to the jury at the start of the malpractice trial. He just about laid out a case for the plaintiff against the doctor. I was amazed. Not being a witless zombie, I immediately held out after hearing the trial details. I sincerely believed the Dr. was being had. First vote was 11-1. As I pleaded my case the vote starting changing till we almost 6-6 I believe. This went on for a day or two. We finally all agreed to produce a guilty verdict but with only a $162,000 settlement, not the tens of millions being sought. The judge asked to speak to us and asked how the hell we came up with such a low settlement. I spoke for the group and told him that the Dr. who was the only one in the state willing to remove a huge tumor did not deserve the recrimination of the plaintiff. We sat there with the entire jury in private, both of us staring at each other. I refused to say another word and after a few minutes the judge did and excused us. No wonder malpratice insurance is through the roof.

Anonymous said...

It's odd that the left continues to to raise the minimum wage but jury service is still stuck at $5 a day; which isn't even enough to cover the cost of lunch anymore.

Guess the unions don't have a COLA related to jury duty fees.