Saturday, December 20, 2014

Less Jurors, More Pay

Beginning on June 1, 2015, Illinois jurors will receive $25 for their first day of service and $50 for each subsequent day of service. Senate Bill 3075 (here), signed by Governor Quinn yesterday, further provides that all civil juries will consist of 6 persons regardless of the nature of the case.

Depending on population, 55 ILCS 5/4-11001 currently requires counties to pay jurors from $4 to $10 per day unless a county sets a higher rate. Cook County jurors now earn $17.20 a day (here), Will County jurors earn $10 a day (here), Winnebago County jurors earn $13 per day (here), and Du Page jurors earn $10 for their first day of service and  $15 thereafter (here). The main criticism of this part of the new law comes from counties because they must fund the pay increase.

Currently, 735 ILCS 5/2-1105 provides for 12 person civil jury trials unless the plaintiff seeks $50,000 or less in which case the jury consists of 6 persons. But the current statute permits a party to demand a jury of 12 in any civil case regardless of the amount claimed. Senate Bill 3075 amends section 5/2-1105(b) by requiring that all civil juries consist of 6 persons and by eliminating the provision permitting a litigant to increase the jury size to 12 persons. This change has been criticized by the Chicago Tribune (here) and the Chicago Council of Lawyers (here). The criticisms vary but include claims that smaller juries reduce minority representation, reduce debate, and reduce the tolerance for dissenting voices on the jury. Proponents argue that 6 person juries will shorten voir dire, reduce litigation costs, and disrupt the lives of fewer citizens.

It is unclear how much research and discussion preceded the enactment of these significant changes to the jury system.

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