Who knew that jurors’ pay was such a burning issue in Illinois? But out of the blue in this week’s veto session, state lawmakers decided to fast track a bill to raise jurors’ pay – not a little but a lot. They also are pushing to reduce the number of people on civil juries from 12 to six.
Senate Bill 3075 was amended on Tuesday to set the pay for jurors at $25 the first day and $50 on subsequent days. Metro-east Democrats Jerry Costello II, Jay Hoffman, Dan Beiser and Eddie Jackson were among those who voted “yes” while Republicans Charlie Meier and Dwight Kay voted “no.”
Who’s pushing for these changes? Did supporters even talk to county board chairmen to ask about the financial impact of this mandate or to judges about the wisdom of smaller civil juries? They are in such a rush to pass this bill, we doubt they had the time.
Raising juror pay would bust the budget for St. Clair County, which this year allocated $70,000 for jurors. That was figuring a rate of $10 a day, not $25 and then $50.
For any county leader who thinks jurors aren’t paid enough, the law already gives them the power to set the rate at whatever they decide is appropriate. But if lawmakers are determined to change the law on the pay rate and the size of civil juries, they should wait to debate these changes in the new legislative session when newly elected lawmakers, not lame ducks, can decide.