Group backs jury idea

Newhouse News Service
Monday, January 12, 2004

For many Americans, jury duty is about as appealing as a traffic ticket or a trip to the dentist: It's tedious, time-consuming and offers little reward.

Now a reform group wants to lessen the dread and apathy that have become synonymous with jury service. It is promoting legislation at the state level that would allow prospective jurors a one-time postponement for any reason and pay those stuck on lengthy trials as much as $300 a day. 

But the "Jury Patriotism Act" is raising eyebrows. Some interest groups object to funding the juror payments with a surcharge on lawsuit filing fees. And an official in one of the nation's largest court systems said some aspects could tie judges' hands when jurors have arguably worthy excuses.

Oct. 1, Michigan increased its juror fees to $40 a day, up from $15. Jurors who serve a half day receive $15, up from $7. 

Those who file civil lawsuits would finance the fund through a fee. Reformers originally proposed $20 per lawsuit, but proponents say it will amount to as little as $3 in many of the states taking up the legislation next year. 

Critics, however, say charging fees of any amount unfairly penalizes litigants. 

"It's not appropriate to finance our judicial system by taxing people who use it in order to get justice," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a New York-based legal advocacy group.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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