Facing a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, Texas lawmakers in 2011 cut the daily amount of $40 dollars for jury service that was approved in 2005. It was initially slashed to $28 dollars, and the Legislature promised to restore it. Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel, who's office oversees jury duty, says the reduction trimmed the pool of potential jurors.
"I think that statewide office holders realized that this was a very draconian cut, and those that were still unemployed thanks to the downturn in the economy, that they need to do something about jury pay. So they did raise it to $30 dollars and now with the cuts expiring, it's fully restored back to $40 dollars."
The state is covering 34 of those dollars and Harris County is picking up the remaining $6 dollars. Daniel hopes the restoration will encourage more people to respond to jury summonses, and result in more diverse juries.
"The consequences are that you may incur up to a $500 dollar fine and possible jail time, depending on the judge. Ultimately, we would encourage you to respond to your jury summons, because if it was your turn to be before a jury, you would want to make sure that is a jury of your peers. And that the best way to do that, is to make sure that not only you, but your neighbors, those that you go to church with, everybody around you participates in jury service."
Daniel says the percentage of people who respond to the call for jury service is about 60 percent.