This Article adopts a new perspective on the obligation of states to compensate jurors on the basis of their financial needs. It combs the nation’s history for answers to a variety of significant questions: Why do states compensate jurors? Have there ever been minimal levels of juror compensation among the states of the union? Have any legal challenges resulted in governments raising jury fees? Have states developed uniform standards for juror compensation in light of varied economic conditions? While, at times, the responses to these questions will be brief, answering them is crucial to understanding how jury fees can be set in accordance with both their purpose and their history. In order to set fees fairly, legislatures and courts should use the federal minimum wage as a guideline for determining the minimum compensation owed to jurors. This indexing process would increase the amount of jury compensation as the federal minimum wage increases. The index would remedy the lack of foresight that resulted from the pattern set by the initial jury compensation statutes. Much like legislation enacting pension increases for disabled veterans of the Civil War, jury payment provisions of the same time frame only cited then-current monetary values. This jury Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) immediately would increase the pay of most jurors and remedy the legislative neglect of this issue evident in recent years. It would also serve to keep states abreast of the necessity to increase their juror compensation in the future.
5 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol’y 289 (2002).