Region’s jurors serve despite hard economic times

Northeast Mississippi jurors don’t seem to be worried about losing their jobs during service time, despite some national reports to the contrary.
However, circuit clerks say they could see more potential jurors ask not to serve because it could pose a financial hardship.
“It’s in the back of their minds,” said Lee Circuit Clerk Joyce Loftin. “But I haven’t seen that problem thus far.”
The longtime clerk said she’s starting to see people called to jury duty press more strongly because they consider themselves their household’s sole breadwinner. They’re concerned the $40-per-day fee plus mileage for service won’t make up for lost hourly wages.
Pontotoc County Circuit Clerk Tracy Robinson, in the second week of a court term, said the bad economic times actually may be driving up enthusiasm for jury service.
“Maybe a lot more people are unemployed and want to serve,” she remarked. “Or maybe they realize the importance of being a juror these days.”
In Chickasaw County, economic hard times arrived long ago, said Circuit Clerk Sandra Willis, a 20-year veteran.
“Jury duty has always been a financial hardship for our people,” she noted. “But we’re blessed with people who are dedicated to making that sacrifice.”
Phyllis Stanford, Union County’s circuit clerk, has a grand jury to convene today and it could take more than one day to consider what’s presented.
“I may see some of that,” Stanford considered about the economic hardship question.
Union and Chickasaw also pay jurors $40 per day, plus mileage.
In Itawamba County, the pay is $30 plus mileage.
Circuit Clerk Carol Gates says Itawamba County hasn’t empaneled a jury lately, but she’s got a court term in June that she’ll need to deal with the economic concerns, if any.
In Florida, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel recently reported courts with problems finding jurors because of the tough economy.
“With climbing unemployment, waves of home foreclosures and worries that time away from work could cost jobs, judges are finding it harder to seat juries, especially for trials expected to lst longer than a day,” the newspaper reported.
Many states have much lower jury-duty pay than in Mississippi.
Some pay $10 per day and a few pay as little as $5 or $6.
In Pennsylvania, county jurors get $9 per day, and officials in Lehigh County say they’ve increased the size of jury panels 10-15 percent for cases expected to last at least five days, because so many potential jurors are asking to be excused for financial hardships.
Some have been laid off and are looking for work, The Local Morning Call newspaper reported. Some have become sole providers because their spouses lost their jobs. Others work for small businesses that don’t compensate employees for their time on a jury. Still more worry they could lose their jobs if they respond to the call.
Lee County’s Loftin said if potential jurors come in with job-related concerns, “We try to work with them.
“But right now, we’re having a pretty good response.”

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.

 

Patsy R. Brumfield/Daily Journal