Rock River Valley counties paying more in fees for jurors

Posted: July 21, 2015 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By Susan Vela
Rockford Register Star

Posted Jul. 18, 2015 at 5:48 PM
Updated Jul 18, 2015 at 5:49 PM

ROCKFORD — Jury trials in the Rock River Valley have become more costly for counties.
Effective June 1, state law required that jurors be paid $25 for the first day of duty and $50 a day for each day thereafter. Previously, jurors got $13 a day.
As a result, the cost for a two-day trial with a 12-member jury, plus two alternate jurors, has jumped from $364 to $1,050.
County officials say it’s an additional unfunded state mandate that makes budgeting perilous.
“What are they, $6 billion upside their current budget?” Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen said, referring to a state budget deficit recently projected to be nearly $4 billion. “They’re worried about what we pay jurors. How absurd. How utterly absurd. Even if that’s a priority, then fund it.”
In budget discussions this fall, Thomas Jakeway, Winnebago County’s trial court administrator, said he’ll ask for up to $300,000 to pay for increased jury costs.
For now, his annual budget is about $385,000. That covers juror fees, the county jury commission’s staff of two full-time and two part-time employees, three jury commissioners, mailing, copying and other office expenses.
“We’re bound by what the legislative body puts forth,” Jakeway said. “Certainly, the jurors are a critical function of what we as the courts need. They preserve every citizen’s right to a jury trial. Fair and reasonable compensation is important, but the balance here is county-funded.”
Jakeway also is trial court administrator for Boone County, where jurors had been receiving $12.50 a day. Because of the change, he’s expecting to request $127,000 in the next budget year to pay for jurors. That’s up from $45,000 in this year’s budget.
Boone County State’s Attorney Michelle Courier said she’s willing to start earlier in the day and stay later to keep jury-trial days to a minimum. Start and end times for trials are up to the judge.
“It’s going to be a strain on our local budget, which is already strained,” she said. “But ultimately, that is going to be up to the courts to decide.”
Stephenson County Circuit Court clerk Nate Luy began tracking the increased costs when the state mandate took effect. In June, the county paid $12,050 to jurors, compared with $3,300 in June 2014, when the cost was $10 a day plus mileage.
He’s still not sure how that will affect his budget requests for next year.

via Rock River Valley counties paying more in fees for jurors | Rockford Register Star

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