Tue, Jan 24, 2023 12:19 PM
By By Madison Hirneisen | The Center Square, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have signaled support for a measure that would make Virginia’s jury duty per-day pay the highest in the nation.
A bill by state Sen. Lionell Spruill, D-Chesapeake, to increase Virginia’s jury duty allowance from $30 to $100 per day has cruised through two committees this month, receiving bipartisan support from lawmakers. The bill passed through the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee Tuesday after receiving unanimous support.
If the bill passes out of the General Assembly and is signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Virginia would have the highest jury duty allowance in the nation by far. Currently, the highest daily pay rate nationwide is $50 per day, though most states pay less than this per day, according to several analyses.
According to the National Center for State Courts, 28 states and the District of Columbia use a flat rate per diem fee, which ranges from $4 to $50 per day. Twenty-three other states utilize a graduated fee system, which pays jurors a reduced flat-rate for the first day of service, and increases the rate after jurors are sworn in or after a predetermined number of service days. The average graduated rate across the 23 states is $38.27 per day, according to NCSC.
San Francisco began a pilot program to pay low income jurors on criminal cases $100 per day of jury service. To qualify, the trial juror must meet several qualifications, including their household income for the past 12 months must be less than 80% of San Francisco Bay Area median income.
Virginia’s updated rate would also eclipse the rate federal jurors are paid. Currently, federal jurors are paid $50 per day, unless their service on a grand jury extends past 45 days, which results in a pay raise of $60 per day, according to United States Courts.
Spruill said Tuesday the arguments for raising jury duty pay are similar to those raised when lawmakers decided to raise Virginia’s minimum wage. He added if this bill is passed, it will be the first time in three decades Virginia adjusts its juror pay.
“When we raised the minimum wage, we did it at the cost of business across the Commonwealth, both small and large,” Spruill told committee members. “For all the reasons that each one of us gave for supporting the minimum wage increase, I am standing here giving you the same thing about raising from $30 per day, which comes out to $3.75 per hour, to $100, which comes out to a minimum rate of $12.50 per hour.”
The bill passed through the committee with an unanimous vote, and without any debate among lawmakers – a sign the bill could continue winning bipartisan support as it works through the General Assembly.
If the bill is passed, the Office of Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court estimates the general fund fiscal impact to the “Criminal Fund” would increase by more than $5.3 million in fiscal year 2024. According to OES, the amount spent for jurors in circuit courts during fiscal year 2019 totaled more than $2.2 million.