By Paige Laver
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The California Legislature has passed and sent to the governor AB 1452, which increases the payment fee for lower income jurors, paying a juror in a civil or criminal superior court case a daily rate of $100 rather than the current $15 rate.
This bill created by Phil Ting (D-SF) would authorize the City of San Francisco and their justice partners to conduct a pilot program to determine and analyze whether paying lower income jurors $100 per day that they are required to report for service as jury duty contributes to a more economically and diverse trial jury panel.
The pilot program was developed collaboratively through partnership between the San Francisco Financial Justice Project within the treasurer’s office, the San Francisco’s Public Defender’s Office, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and the San Francisco Bar Association.
This bill would benefit District Attorney Chesa Boudin and his office because of his work with injustice and fighting for equality, housing for San Francisco’s homeless population, and those who are economically disadvantaged.
Additionally, this would benefit the work the District Attorney has done in the criminal justice system, by providing people the opportunity to participate in jury duty without having to sacrifice their income.
The legislation will make it mandatory for the pilot program court to collect data that is self-reported from the actual jurors themselves who received the increased fee.
It would require the pilot program court and its justice partners to hire a third party entity to create a report and analysis of the data from the jurors and a conclusion of the effectiveness about the pilot program without any cost to the pilot program court.
The importance of AB 1452 is that it will remove financial barriers that prevent thousands of San Francisco citizens from being able to serve on jury duty every year, by allowing for inclusion, diversity, and equity, said supporters.
And, they add, this would allow for juries to be composed of a “fair cross section of the community” which the Sixth Amendment is meant to guarantee. The pilot program is a step closer to an inclusive jury duty including economic, geographic, and racial diversity to be present in the courtroom.
The bill analysis notes many San Francisco citizens would like the opportunity to serve on jury duty, but can’t because of the economic barrier of not being able to afford to take time off from work that is required for jury duty.
Since many San Franciscans are unable to take time off work, the jury pool usually consists of people who can afford to take the time off, and do not reflect the economic and racially diverse population of San Francisco.
Even though time off work to be a juror is guaranteed in California, the state’s law does not require employers to pay their employees serving on a jury. If a juror’s employer does not cover their salary they will receive nothing on the first day of jury duty, and a $15 daily rate following the first day of service.
And, in general, people who make an hourly wage do not receive any compensation from their employer.
Bill sponsors note that jury duty is an opportunity for true civic engagement, where someone’s economic status should not prevent them from participating in serving their community, and making juries much more diverse and inclusive.