Region's jurors serve despite hard economy

n Reports elsewhere say fewer people want to take the duty because of financial concerns.
By Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal
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 won’t make up for lost wages.
Pontotoc County Circuit Clerk Tracy Robinson, in the second week of a court term, said the bad economy actually may be driving up enthusiasm for jury service.
“Maybe a lot more people are unemployed and want to serve,” she said. “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.”
Like Lee County, Union and Chickasaw also pay jurors $40 per day, plus mileage.
Itawamba County pays 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 last 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.
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.”

Patsy Brumfield