Sacramento – San Francisco is one step closer to implementing a pilot program that aims to see if higher pay leads to more racial and socio-economic diversity in juries. With bipartisan support, the California Legislature today approved AB 1452 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), removing a barrier to serve by increasing the daily rate from $15 to $100 for low- to moderate-income jurors.
“Frankly, the current fifteen dollars a day is insulting. It barely covers parking or transportation to the courthouse and lunch,” said Ting. “We lose potential jurors because they can’t afford to miss a paycheck. In order for justice to be administered fairly, juries must be reflective of the communities they serve.”
With such low compensation, juries tend to wealthier and lack racial diversity because many workers cannot afford to miss a paycheck and often seek to be excused. In San Francisco, a survey by the Administrative Office of the Courts of California found 35 percent of jurors say exercising their civic duty would impose a financial hardship. The Be The Jury pilot program will test whether $100/day will improve demographics, as well as result in fairer verdicts. Studies have shown diverse juries spend more time in deliberations and are less likely to presume guilt, thereby improving the legitimacy of the criminal justice system.
“As public defenders, we know first-hand how challenging it is for people accused of crimes to get a jury of their peers, and how disheartening it can be for our clients when nobody on the jury looks like them or comes from their communities. AB 1452 both removes the financial hardship that deprives thousands of San Franciscans from serving on juries every year and is a key tool in increasing diversity and equity in our courtrooms,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.
Jurors would be eligible for this program if their household income is less than 80% of the Area Median Income, which is $71,700 for a single person or $102,500 for a household of four in San Francisco. They must also meet one of the following criteria:
- Their employer does not compensate for jury service;
- Their employer does not compensate for the estimated duration of their service;
- They are self-employed;
- Or they are unemployed.
The San Francisco Financial Justice Project has already raised philanthropic funds and is ready to implement the higher pay in the Be The Jury pilot program, if AB 1452 is signed into law. As with all bills sent to the Governor in the final weeks of session this year, he has until October 10 to act.