New York, NY – Across the country, state and federal courts are reporting jury pools packed with eager candidates, some even toting resumes. Attorneys are struggling to pick juries with so many to choose from. “They’re all very polite, neutral, non-committal, and boring,” complained defense attorney Jack Armstrong. “How the hell am I supposed to voir dire these people?”
Court administrators are overwhelmed. “Normally, you summons a whole lot of folks and hope they don’t all show up,” New York County Commissioner of Jurors Oscar Martinez said. “Now everybody’s here.”
“It’s wonderful,” beamed Judge Roscoe Pound of New York State Supreme Court. “The jury is essential to democracy and every citizen should jump at the chance to get in the box and do their civic duty.”
However, economists speculate the surge in interest is actually attributable to persistent unemployment and the expiration of benefits. The national unemployment rate registers at 9.6%. Taking into account the underemployed, the rate rises to 17%. Meanwhile, many out of work Americans have exhausted state unemployment benefits. The federal government’s Emergency Unemployment Compensation program runs out on November 30, 2010.
$40 per day is the jury fee for New York State courts. If service extends beyond 30 days, the court may authorize an additional $6 per day. Empaneled jurors can continue to collect unemployment benefits.
At 111 Centre Street, members of the petit jury pool agreed the pay is lousy but so is the economy. “I’ve been out of work for a year,” admitted one man who asked not to be identified. “I wanted to do something productive, and the money doesn’t hurt.”
Another potential juror recalled she used to avoid jury duty “like the plague.” Now she’ll do whatever it takes to get picked.
“You do not want an attorney to strike your ass for cause,” the woman said. “Yeah I’ve gotten sued a bunch of times and was lead plaintiff in a class action. My brother’s a cop and I hate doctors. And I’m off my meds. I ain’t telling them any of that. I’m a blank slate baby. Model citizen.”
“Five dollars an hour is better than nothing,” the woman continued. “I just hope I get a six month securities fraud conspiracy trial. After 30 days, that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.”