Butler County jurors have been underpaid for decades, commissioners said, so they have agreed to increase the daily compensation by 200% — up to $30 for jurors selected to serve, and other adjustments.
The county clerk of courts and common pleas judges asked the commissioners a couple weeks ago to approve raising the amount jurors are compensated from $5 to $20 for those who are called for duty but not selected and seated jurors from $10 to $40 per day. For trials that last longer than two weeks, the daily rate would go up to $75. The rates would be the same for regular and grand juries.
The commissioners tabled the request twice because they wanted more information. On Monday, they agreed to boost fees to $15 per day for jurors called, $30 for those who are empaneled and $50 for trials that last longer than two weeks.,
Commissioner Don Dixon said he discussed the adjustment with Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Oster.
“I had a discussion with Judge Oster and I think the judges discussed the court fee increase and they too believe it should be $15, $30 and $50,” Dixon said. “They were very accommodating and worked with us well on that, so thank you judges.”
Clerk of Courts Mary Swain surveyed 57 other counties and it shows there are a dozen jurisdictions that pay jurors $30, seven that pay more — in the $40 range — and 38 that pay less. Of those counties six pay more for longer trials, Miami County pays $80 for jurors serving longer than two weeks and the others pay less than $50.
Jurors are paid $50 per day in the federal court system and are reimbursed for mileage. If they are required to travel farther than 75 miles away from home their lodging is also reimbursed up to a point.
Oster told the Journal-News they proposed the higher end amount because they know it is economically difficult for some jurors.
“It was so low, where we were at, and in a perfect world where none of us have to worry about these things, still love to see jurors get compensated like we can,” Oster said. “The hard part is when we have a juror who possibly works on commission or their employers aren’t willing to pay them on the days they’re off, it’s just a difficult thing if they’re here for a five-day murder trial and they’re only going to get $50.”
County Administrator Judi Boyko said the increase won’t make a huge difference to the county financially.
“This would be an additional $46,000 annually and it would be an increase to what the courts currently pay for the last several years,” Boyko said. “But nearly the same as what they budget. They budget around $70,000, this $15, $30 would be about $81,000 in actual costs.”
Administrative Judge Greg Howard told the Journal-News previously the county’s jury compensation is “offensive” and said the compromise they struck with the commissioners is fair.
“The monies that were being paid the jurors to do the job we were asking them to do is woefully inadequate,” he said. “This raises it up, it’s not the highest in the state... We’re happy with it, whether we’re happy with it really isn’t the issue it’s what I think the citizens that are serving as our jurors, they’re taking time away from their families and their businesses and I think they’ll feel they’re being compensated a little bit more fairly for their time.”
Court Administrator Wayne Gilkison told the Journal-News they spent $39,000 last year on jury fees. The court paid 600 regular jurors $7,740 and 942 grand jurors $27,080. Over the past 10 years jurors have been paid a total of $399,620. Swain said the majority of the jury trials last only a couple days.
Swain told the Journal-News the jury costs are already charged to the parties in both civil and criminal cases, so the increased costs would be passed on, but not always necessarily paid.
Some jurors are still paid by their employers while they are empaneled, but not everyone. According to the Ohio Bar Association, “neither the Ohio statute nor the federal statute requires employers to compensate employees for time related to jury duty. Some private employers choose to pay their employees for this time, but this is strictly voluntary.”
Public sector employers for the most part are required to compensate their employees while they are performing their civic duty.
Presiding Judge Noah Powers told the Journal-News, “there are employers out there who are better, who consider that an excused absence and actually pay them, but that’s kind of few and far between.”
He said he is glad the commissioners agreed to up the pay, but he doesn’t necessarily think the increase will impact people’s willingness to serve. He said he has had people go “to great lengths” not to serve, going so far as to say they are “racist” or cop haters on their forms.
“It might a little bit, but to be honest there are people who want to do jury duty and they can and there are people who really believe in doing jury duty and they’ll do it no matter what,” Powers said. “And then there are people out there who will just do anything to get out of it.”
County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said of the rate hike, “I’m always happy to see people get paid a little bit more money for the public service that they’re donating.”
He said grand jurors are empaneled for three-months and individual jurors work one week out of each of those months. The weekly compensation will go from $50 to $150 under the new rates or $450 for the entire term.
“They’ll be happy about that,” Gmoser said but on the other hand, “I can’t recall anybody ever saying you don’t pay me enough to be a juror, I want off.”