Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jury Duty at $10 per Day

So once again, my number came up for jury duty in the great state of Washington. This is probably the fifth time in ten years, and each time they give the same spiel: pay attention, we so appreciate your willingness to be here, and you'll get paid a whopping $10 per day. Never mind the fact that the summons to jury duty is accompanied by the kindly note, "Failure to report for jury duty is a misdemeanor...." Yes, we're all very happy to be there! But it's the $10 per day slap in the face that really irks me.

They explain (as they've likely been doing for over 60 years now) that the $10 per day rate was set back in 1950, at which point it would have been a reasonable pay for a day of work -- at least somewhat close to minimum wage. Back in 1950, the minimum wage was $0.75 per hour, so $10 for a day means they were actually giving you $1.25 per hour (for eight hours), or 67% more than minimum wage. Today, Washington actually has a state minimum wage of $9.75, which means now for a typical eight hour day you're getting paid about 13% of the minimum wage rate. Meanwhile, and this is what really chaps my hide, we have lawyers and judges getting paid $200+ per hour for their time in court.

Is it so hard to see why people hate doing their "civic duty" and serving as a member of a jury? Your work is required to give you a leave of absence, but there's no requirement that they reimburse you -- and mostly it's only the people working for big corporations and the state employees that still get their regular salary. So today, seventeen people showed up for half a day in response to a summons, and the courts paid us a combined total of $170 (I'm assuming that we all got paid -- I'll find out by the middle of April). Sure the state is "bankrupt", but again the courts continue to run and I've never heard any talk of cutting the pay rates of the lawyers and judges. I'm reminded of a quote:

"And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." That's Jesus Christ talking to the lawyers (scribes and pharisees) who were continually seeking his destruction, and it could easily be said of our system today. I had to hire a divorce attorney at one point; I paid $250 per hour for the case work, and court time was paid at 1.5x the normal rate -- $375 per hour. You'd think that with a $125 per hour increase in cost, most of that should be passed along to the courts so that they can in turn pass along some pay to anyone that is needed by the courts (e.g. jurors), but as far as I can tell it's just a way for lawyers to make more money. Here's another quote:

"For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed." That's from Isaiah 9:16, written some 2600 years ago, and I can't help but feel that we still haven't learned the lesson. Nearly every one of our problems that the various legislators are currently "working so diligently to solve" can be laid directly at their feet. All this hand wringing over the so-called fiscal cliff and the posturing and so forth; and why is it that we're at this stage? Because the legislature couldn't properly budget for their needs -- but the same people certainly had no problem voting themselves salary increases, and they had no problem signing huge budgets that couldn't hope to be paid back.

The sad thing is, as corrupt as the system is, I don't see other places doing any better.

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