Answering the call to jury duty in McLennan County

By Ferrell Foster

Call me impressed with a lot of McLennan County employees. I arrived early for my first summons to jury duty since moving here in 2020. There were about 200 of us in the pool of potential jurors, and every employee we encountered was polite, professional, and sometimes even a little humorous (which was welcome).

I was also impressed with my fellow county residents. Most people don’t seem to want to be called for jury duty; we’ve got plenty to do. It’s understandable that some people cannot serve for this or that reason, but it’s really impressive that so many people are willing to step up and provide this important service to our justice system.

My number was not called for the 12-member panel for which I was considered, but I have every confidence in the group chosen.

Among all of these positive experiences only one thing bothered me — juror compensation. Many of us donated to a nonprofit what the county was paying. Of course, it wasn’t much. Here’s the county’s juror compensation from its website.

Compensation

  • For the 1st day of service, you will be paid a minimum of $7.50 for the day that you present yourself willing to serve and you will receive $15 if you serve on a jury the 1st day. 
  • For the 2nd day and subsequent days of service, you will be paid $40 per day regardless of whether you are actually serving on a jury. 

That’s really amazing. Most of us were at the courthouse from 8:30 a.m. to about 3 p.m., and some were there longer. I suspect that level of compensation put a real burden on some, but I do not know.

It just seems to me that a great county like ours could more fairly compensate people for their time. Yes, we all would pay for it in our taxes, but it seems better for all of us to pitch in for this important service.

People are generally willing to pay for what they value. I think we should value jury service more. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we residents should be willing to do this for free, and many of us did this week. But the current compensation seems to create a deterrent to all members of our community serving, and that’s not good for our justice system.

That said, I want to return to what I began with — our great McLennan County employees. Thank you for doing all you do to make this a great place to live and work. Thank you for your expertise, for you patience, for your care. It makes a difference.

Ferrell Foster is director of communications for Act Locally Waco.

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