Judges, jurors need a pay raise

If Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget proposal is accepted, Minnesota judges and jurors could soon receive more money for their service, the Star Tribune reported last week.

Currently, Minnesota jurors receive $10 per day to cover travel fares, lunch fees and any other expenses that jury duty might entail. The governor’s budget proposal advocates doubling that sum, which is too low to adequately cover jurors’ costs in big cities like Minneapolis or St. Paul.

The budget plan would also raise the salaries of district judges and other court employees, whose wages have only increased a small amount since 2001. After two consecutive years of 5 percent increases, district judges would make $152,496 annually. These increases’ proponents argue that fewer and fewer qualified applicants are considering jobs in the public judiciary, which does not currently pay as well as many jobs in private law firms.

We feel positive about the measures that this budget proposal takes to improve the state’s judicial system. Higher salaries will help attract more talented individuals to the public sector.

At the same time, more compensation for jurors will help alleviate the financial burden that jury duty can impose when cases last for several days. This burden can disproportionately affect low-income citizens, who cannot always afford to take time off work to serve on a jury. Hopefully, higher daily wages will create more representative juries by permitting more low-income jurors to serve on them.