PLATTE CITY, Mo. — Missouri ranks at almost the very bottom nationwide for how much it pays it jurors.
While inflation and hourly rates for most jobs are going up, Missouri pays its jurors just $6 a day. Some prosecutors and lawmakers hoping to change that.
Jurors make decisions that sometimes could send people to life in prison or award plaintiffs millions of dollars, but even with gas mileage compensation their take home pay might not be enough to cover a fast food meal during a lunch break.
Colorado is one of 10 states paying jurors $50 a day and nearby Iowa pays $30 according to the National Center for State Courts. Missouri’s pay of $6 is only ahead of Mississippi nationally.
“The most important thing you can do as an American is vote and when you are asked to serve on a jury. We compensate jurors at a rate that may have been fair in 1920 but isn’t fair in 2022,” Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd said.
Missouri does pay for your gas to get to the courthouse, but at 7 cents a mile with today’s gas prices you’ll need to get at least 50 miles to the gallon just to break even.
Counties can raise those rates with local funding. Jackson and Platte up it to $18 if you are selected and seated for a trial. Clay County is at $50 if you make it day 3 while Cass County kicks in a lot more for gas at 47 cents a mile.
Missouri Representative LaKeySha Bosley, D- St. Louis, introduced a bill last session that would raise jury minimum pay to $25 a day and at least $37 if a county decides to give incentives for being selected. But it didn’t gain much traction, she believes due in part to a provision that also would have required employers to pay workers while serving jury duty.
“No we don’t want to burden the employer but we don’t want the employer to force the employee to have to use their comp time, their sick leave to do their civic duty. Why would I leave a job where I’m making $20 plus an hour to go to a place that I’m only making $6 a day? That just doesn’t make sense,” Bosley said.
Bosley worries Missouri’s low jury pay is keeping marginalized communities from a constitutional right, a true jury of their peers. Prosecutors like Zahnd say one things for sure, it makes their job more difficult.
“Every time we try to select a jury we get people who say look I can’t afford time to take off of work and that’s a legitimate concern,” Zahnd said.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office responded to questions about juror pay with this.
“Juror’s pay in Jackson County and the state of Missouri is ridiculous. We joke that the value of the paper the check is written on may be worth more than the cash that might come from the check. Joking aside, we would support an increase in juror’s pay, whether it comes from state or local government action. Otherwise, juror’s pay will continue to signal this highly important function is of almost no value. That’s far, far from the truth.”
Kansas has a $10 minimum for juror pay, but also allows counties to pay more. Johnson County, for example, pays $25.
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