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.