NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is Jury Service a Tax?

December 29, 1999

Jury service in Texas constitutes an unfair tax on those who serve, says economist Lori Taylor of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. She says the state requirement that jurors surrender a valuable asset -- their time -- with little or no personal benefit is a tax.

Not everyone agrees with Taylor. "It's not a tax," says Supreme Court Justice Greg Abbott. "It's a responsibility."

Jurors' time isn't valued because it costs little for the courts to provide, says Taylor.

  • Jurors are paid a minimum of $6 a day in Texas and may be paid up to $50 a day at the judge's discretion -- which is rarely used.
  • The low pay raises the likelihood of overrepresentation from the elderly, poor and unemployed -- for whom jury service doesn't mean a loss in pay.
  • Also, the tax is distributed inequitably, with 16.5 percent of eligible residents serving at least one day in Bexar County (San Antonio), compared with only 7.3 percent in Dallas County or 4.5 percent in Travis County (Austin).

More than half the states are considering some sort of jury reform, though only a handful have passed meaningful measures, says Tom Munsterman of the Center for Jury Studies in Arlington, Va.

Source: Brad Reagan, "Study Finds Jury Service Is Unfair Burden on the Public," Texas Journal, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, December 29, 1999.


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