Monday, July 15, 2002
Governor Signs Bill Increasing Juror Mileage Payment
By NAZANIN AGANGE, Staff Writer
Gov. Gray Davis on Friday signed a bill increasing the mileage reimbursement for jurors by 19 cents, but eliminating reimbursement for a juror’s first day of duty.
Alan LoFaso, a spokesman for AB 2925’s author, Assemblywoman Carole Migden, said the per mile increase from 15 cents to 34 cents was intended to cut down on wasteful administrative costs and increase reimbursements to jurors.
“There was an inconsistency between the old jury compensation bill and the one-day, one-trial system,” LoFaso said.
Under the one-day, one-trial system, potential jurors serve either on one trial or, if they are not assigned to a case, they only one full day of jury duty. Because of previous laws, jurors who served one day were not paid for duty, but still got paid for mileage.
LoFaso said that the value of mileage reimbursements—which often comes out to less than a dollar for one day of jury duty—was less than the cost of the actual check.
In many courts, including the Los Angeles Superior Court, jurors are invited to donate their fairly low mileage fees to several charities—not just to fund the charities, but to cut down the cost of calculating, printing and mailing the checks. But many jurors opt to collect the small mileage reimbursement.
The cost of a check is difficult to pinpoint because it varies by county, according to Migden’s office. Considering the costs of labor, paper, printing, equipment depreciation and postage, “at the very least it probably costs $1.10” for each check, Migden spokesman Alex Ponce de Leon said.
The state currently spends $4.5 million on jury mileage reimbursement a year, Ponce de Leon said. That figure will stay the same under the new law.
In order to make the bill “cost neutral,” Migden’s staff calculated the savings from not reimbursing jurors for the first day of mileage, including both the administrative savings and value of the reimbursement, and added that amount to mileage reimbursement for subsequent days. Jurors will still only be reimbursed for the distance one-way.
LoFaso called it a “better use of funds.”
“And all the money from administrative savings [are transferred] to jurors in the form of increased mileage reimbursement,” he said.
Migden, D-San Francisco, has passed three other bills improving juror selection and reimbursement over her three-year term. In 2000, Migden authored AB 2866, increasing juror pay per day from $5—a figure that had not been changed since 1957—to $15.
In 2000, the state also passed AB 2418, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in jury selection, and AB 2406, giving lawyers authority to directly question jurors in criminal cases. The new laws allow for higher quality, less biased juries, LoFaso said.
“Migden is the juror’s legislator,” LoFaso joked.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company