Prospective San Francisco jurors may soon have one less reason to toss out their summons.
Starting Monday, the City and County of San Francisco will launch a new pilot program, called “Be The Jury,” which will pay $100 per day to jurors who qualify.
The city hopes to help low-to-moderate income San Franciscans serve on juries explains Amanda Fried, chief of policy and communications for San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros, who co-sponsored Assembly Bill 1452, which authorized the program.
The bill was co-authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting and State Sen. Scott Wiener. It was signed into law in October 2021, and the pilot program is funded through philanthropic dollars raised by San Francisco Treasurer’s Financial Justice Project.
Fried explains that gig workers such as Uber drivers or people with childcare or eldercare responsibilities often feel like they can’t afford to take a day off working or providing care.
“We started this program because we really believe that nobody should be priced out of serving on a jury,” said Fried.“The lack of compensation prevents many people from participating in jury service.”
Jurors serving on criminal trials are eligible for compensation through the “Be The Jury” pilot program if their household income is less than 80% of the Area Median Income—that’s $74,600 for a single person or $106,550 for a family of four—and they’re self-unemployed or unemployed or their employer won’t compensate for jury service or for the estimated duration of the trial.
Currently, state law does not require employers to compensate employees who miss work because of jury service, but the California Labor Code does prohibit employers from firing or harassing an employee who is summoned for jury duty. According to a survey by the Administrative Office of the Courts of California, 35% of jurors report that jury service imposed a financial hardship. Typical California jury service compensation is $15 per day after the first day if a juror’s employer does not cover their pay while serving.
The program also aims to create more diverse juries with a range of socioeconomic experiences, backgrounds and perspectives that “reflect the broader community of San Francisco,” said Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a co-sponsor of AB 1452.
“A lot of times wealth disparities are correlated with race, and that often means that disproportionately it's people of color who are unable to serve on juries [because of] those financial hardships,” said Marshall. “It's really important for public safety that we have juries that can understand the context in communities that people are coming from.”
Prospective jurors will receive more information about “Be The Jury” through their summons or arrival at court from the judge and can learn more about the program by calling 311 or visiting bit.ly/BeTheJury.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org