Tie juror pay to minimum wage (Editor’s notes)

Penalties clearly aren't working for no-shows
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/26/2011

Courts are losing patience with people who either refuse, forget or are just too lazy to show up for jury duty. As outlined in one of this issue’s cover stories (“Courts losing patience with jury no-shows,” ), one judge calculated between 11 per cent and 21 per cent of prospective jurors in 42 different trials in Brampton, Ont., never bothered to show up. Other estimates have put the no-show rate as high as 50 per cent.

This is fascinating because jury duty isn’t exactly optional. Not responding to a notice can result in fines and jail time, of varying amounts, depending on the jurisdiction. In Alberta, for example, the penalty for playing hooky includes a fine of up to $1,000, up to one month in jail or both. There are also penalties for employers that refuse to allow time off for jury duty.

But, clearly, the stick isn’t working. So perhaps it’s time to try the carrot, which comes in two forms: Appealing to one’s sense of civic duty or paying jurors for their time. The former isn’t working (we can toss “civic duty” into the pile of things that ain’t what they used to be) and the latter is a pretty wilted, mouldy looking carrot.