Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Jury duty

I figure since I'm currently sitting in the jury room waiting to be assigned to one or more cases (which has an outside chance of basically ruining my life for a while), I would blog about jury duty. This is mostly going to just be my opinions on how things should work, with possibly a little personal experience thrown in.

First, I think the #1 travesty with jury duty is the compensation for jurists: it's beyond retarded into insulting. You get $15/day, for each day beyond the 1st, plus one-way mileage. That... is ridiculous. Now I get that if you're getting paid by your company anyway that extra money is just that, but it's not like your company is not losing money when you're wasting your time waiting around for your rubber-stamping time in the jury box (which, BTW, might be literally months of mind-numbing time wasting, but more on that in a bit). More than that, though, your employer is losing your services, which are likely worth more than your actual compensation.

Here's my opinion on compensation: you should earn, per hour that the court requires you to be anywhere (including commuting, waiting, jury-ing, etc.), the higher of the court-decided minimum compensation (currently the insulting $15/day, as mentioned), or your average pre-tax hourly compensation rate based on your previous year's tax return. Of course the court will be able to consider the compensation when selecting prospective jurors, and/or streamline the management of the time they require jurors to be places, to be able to control their costs if they so desire. In exchange for this compensation, the employer should be able to not pay the employee for days they are in jury duty; after all, they are losing the employee for those days. With this scheme, the employer is minimally impacted (not injured as they currently are), the employee is minimally impacted (deriving similar compensation during their service), and the court is strongly incentivized to minimize the disruption to the jurors' time.

Speaking of the juror's time, if you have the misfortune to be placed on an actual trial, it can ruin your life. Think six months of seclusion from everyone, six months away from your job, day after day of mind-numbing court procedure and legalese, followed by stress-inducing deliberations ad-naseum. Granted this is the unlikely case, but it's also a scenario you could use to frighten small children, or hardened war veterans. And we won't even consider the outside chance of being put on a case where the defendant is in a position to threaten jurors, or possibly extract vengeance after the trail; that could be life-ending, rather than "only" six months of pure hell.

In all fairness, though, I have to include the unexpected reasonable aspects. For one, there is free wifi here, so I can browse the net while my employer is paying the LA court system to waste my time... that is allowing me to blog, among other things. Second, the chairs are not hard uncomfortable pain-inducing benches, but rather reasonably comfortable soft airport-style chairs. I should note, however, that it was pointed out that both of these "luxuries" were only added recently in direct response to overwhelming unity of suggestions in the suggestion box, so it's not like the court was independently trying to make anyone comfortable or otherwise mentally occupied during their forced incarceration in the jury process.

More later as the process continues, maybe.

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