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City to increase criminal trial juror pay for lower-income residents

Gov. Gavin Newsom Friday signed a bill that enables San Francisco to launch a pilot program that increases pay for low- and moderate-income jurors on criminal cases.

Under Assembly Bill 1452, authored by Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), jurors with household incomes below 80 percent of the Area Median Income will see their daily jury pay jump to $100 a day under the Be the Jury pilot program. Jurors are currently paid $15 each day starting the second day of service.

In addition to income limits, jurors eligible for the increased pay must also meet one of the following criteria:

  • Juror’s employer does not compensate for trial jury service.
  • Juror’s employer does not compensate for jury service for the estimated duration of the criminal jury trial.
  • Juror is self-employed.
  • Juror is unemployed.

State law requires that employers give employees time off for jury duty, but they are not required to compensate employees for that time.

Ting said in a statement thanking the governor for signing the bill to allow The City explore ways to diversify juries:

“Studies show when juries are more reflective of the communities they serve, they spend more time in deliberations and are less likely to presume guilt, which help defendants get a fair trial.”

Under the bill, the court and its justice partners must select a third-party to complete an analysis report and conclusion of the pilot program’s effectiveness and impact, without cost to the San Francisco Superior Court. Data must also be collected from jurors who received the increased pay.

The City’s Public Defender Mano Raju said in a statement:

“Thanks to Governor Newsom’s signature, the Be the Jury pilot program can start to rebalance the scales of justice and remove the financial hardship that deprives thousands of San Franciscans from what should be a sacred right to serve on juries.”

Ting’s office cited a survey conducted by the Administrative Office of the Courts of California in San Francisco, which found that 35 percent of potential jurors are unable to serve due to financial hardship.

The Financial Justice Project, which identifies fines and fees that disproportionately affect people of color and low-income individuals, will provide pilot program funding through philanthropic grants. Ting’s office said necessary funding has already been secured.

CIty Treasurer José Cisneros, whose office oversees the Financial Justice Project, said in a statement:

“Our juries should reflect San Francisco’s economic and racial diversity. The authorization of the Be The Jury pilot program brings us a step closer to a more accessible, diverse, and just legal system.

The pilot program will take effect on Jan. 1. The San Francisco Superior Court may end the pilot on or before Dec. 31, 2023.

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