With the Governor’s signature on AB 1452 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), San Francisco will soon begin paying low to moderate-income jurors $100 per day – up from $15 a day. The pilot program called Be The Jury seeks to determine whether higher pay leads to more racial and socio-economic diversity in juries.
“The legal system is full of inequities, and juries lacking diversity exacerbate that. I thank the Governor for seeing the need for change and allowing our city to explore whether higher pay improves demographics. Studies show when juries are more reflective of the communities they serve, they spend more time in deliberations and are less likely to presume guilt, which help defendants get a fair trial,” said Ting.
In San Francisco, a survey by the Administrative Office of the Courts of California found 35% of jurors say exercising their civic duty would impose a financial hardship. That number suggests low compensation often motives residents to get excused from jury duty, so they can go to work and earn a full paycheck instead. Be The Jury will not only explore the impact of higher pay on jury statistics, but also whether fairer verdicts are rendered.
“Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signature, the Be the Jury pilot program can start to rebalance the scales of justice and remove the financial hardship that deprives thousands of San Franciscans from what should be a sacred right to serve on juries,” said San Francisco Public Defender Mano Raju.
“Our juries should reflect San Francisco’s economic and racial diversity. The authorization of the Be The Jury pilot program brings us a step closer to a more accessible, diverse, and just legal system,” said San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros.
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 unemployed.
AB 1452 goes into effect on January 1, 2022. The San Francisco Financial Justice Project has already raised philanthropic funds to implement the Be The Jury pilot program.