Q: My wife was selected to participate on a jury. The trial is expected to last many weeks, during which time she will receive no money from her employer. The judge has expressed contempt for those experiencing financial hardship and has refused to dismiss her. We are already out hundreds of dollars in wages and the trial hasn’t even started. How is it that we are expected to go without at least 1 1/2 paychecks and still make ends meet? Are there any remedies available? Could I sue the court in small claims?
J.P., Santa Ana
A: Perhaps some day we will have professional juries. For now, I just hope your wife knows her jury service is indeed greatly appreciated.
California Rule of Court 2.1008 says: “Jury service, unless excused by law, is a responsibility of citizenship. The court and its staff must employ all necessary and appropriate means to ensure that citizens fulfill this important civic responsibility.” The court therefore is required to make sure juries are available, but private employers in California are not required to pay wages during jury service. If available, you can choose to utilize vacation hours, paid time off, sick leave or other personal time while on jury duty. Your employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against you for serving.
Subsection (d)(3) of Rule 2.1008 sets forth that in determining whether to excuse someone from jury service because of “an extreme financial burden,” consideration will be given to: (a) the sources of the prospective juror’s household income, (b) the availability and extent of income reimbursement, (c) the expected length of service and (d) whether jury service can reasonably be expected to compromise the prospective juror’s ability to support him or herself, or his or her dependents, or so disrupt the economic stability of the individual as to be against the interests of justice.
Bottom line, to substantiate financial hardship, credible documentation is important, if not required. A complaint in small claims court will not work because the court has immunity with regard to judicial functions. Ultimately, the decision to excuse a juror is up to the judge.
Q: How much are jurors paid?
A: Jurors are paid fees and mileage beginning with their second day of service. Fees are paid at the end of a trial, at the rate of $15 dollars per day and 34 cents per mile, one way from their home to the courthouse. (Jurors who work for a federal, state or local government agency — which includes county, city and school districts — who receive benefits during jury duty, must waive their jury fees per Code of Civil Procedure, Section 481.200 and 215.)
If you have further questions, the number to contact in Los Angeles County is 213-974-3993; in Orange County, call 657-622-7000.
Ron Sokol has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years, and has also served many times as a judge pro tem, mediator, and arbitrator. It is important to keep in mind that this column presents a summary of the law, and is not to be treated or considered legal advice, let alone a substitute for actual consultation with a qualified professional.
Source: Orange County Register