The Harris County District Clerk's Office informed Commissioners Court that jurors will be paid $40 a day - one-third more than they have been receiving.
District Clerk Chris Daniel said the pay hike will increase the incentive to come to jury service, especially among some groups such as part-time workers, homemakers, retirees and the unemployed. With such incentives, he said he hopes that fewer people ignore requests for jury service.
"The public has more confidence in a justice system when jury panels reflect the demographics of the county," Daniel said. "I'm hoping that higher jury pay draws in more people in general, including low-wage workers."
Employees, including low-hourly wage workers, are less likely to turn out for jury service if their employers do not continue to pay them while they are serving their civic duty, Daniel said.
The office has been relying on a public awareness campaign to encourage more people to come to jury service. Higher pay can help draw more people in, Daniel said.
In 2011, the state Legislature temporarily lowered jury pay statewide as a cost-cutting measure during the Great Recession. But, according to that 2011 law, jury pay would return to its previous level in September of 2013. Commissioners Court and the District Clerk's Office are merely following state law.
The 2011 law allowed counties not to pay jurors $6 a day for service in addition to the pay provided by the state. Harris County Commissioners Court opted not to pay $6 starting in 2011 as a cost-cutting measure. So jury pay went from $40 to $28 in 2011. The state added $2 more in September 2012, bringing it to $30.
Jury pay now rises to $40 a day, with $34 coming from the state and $6 from the county. The state has returned to requiring the county to pay its share of $6 a day.