Legislation would increase pay for Kentucky jurors for first tim - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Legislation would increase pay for Kentucky jurors for first time in 40 years

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- They haven't gotten a raise in 40 years, but they still keep coming to work. Now there's a push to increase pay for Kentucky jurors.

They're the fabric of our judicial process, at times choosing between life and death.

"Who's telling the truth and who's not telling the truth?" asked Judge Brian Edwards. "That's the jurors' role. They are the fact finders."

Yet in Kentucky, the people deemed most valuable in court are also the lowest paid. Jerry Cantrell earned $12.50 a day on a civil trial this week in Jefferson County Circuit Court. 

"It's nominal," Cantrell said. "Not really that much at all, which kind of surprises you."

It's the 57-year-old's first time serving on a jury. He was released as the alternate Friday ahead of deliberations. Comprised of three-and-a-half days -- around 20 hours -- in the jury box, Cantrell's civic duty works out to about 62 cents an hour. 

"It sucks, but luckily, where I work at, they pay for me to come here also," he said. "If that's all I was depending on, I really could not afford it."

Judge Edwards says he feels jurors' pain. He says several potential jurors tell him during the jury selection process that the service would be financially crippling for them. That's why Judge Edwards says he supports the pitch in Frankfort to pay jurors more. 

Senate Bill 87 would raise the rate from $12.50 to $25 a day. 

"It shouldn't be a hindrance, or something that people look for ways to get out of doing, but it should be something people look forward to doing because it's part of the price of being a citizen," Judge Edwards said.

Kentucky ranks among the lowest states in the U.S. for its jury pay rate. States like North Dakota and South Dakota pay $50 a day, plus mileage. 

But this verdict is not as simple as it sounds. According to the Administrative Office of Kentucky Courts, Kentucky taxpayers forked out $2.6 million to jurors statewide last year. Doubling it in a non-budget year may be a tough case to win in the legislature. 

For now the jury's out. 

The $12.50 a day rate was set in Kentucky in 1976. 

The jury pay bill is sitting with the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

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