For jurors, itís just hurry up and wait

by Dan Olincy

During my recent stint as a juror in Santa Monica, the universal concern of many potential jurors was the "hurry up and wait" problem: their time being wasted.

The jurors werenít much troubled by other problems identified by a Judicial Council of California blue ribbon commission ó poor or crowded jury facilities, lack of parking, lack of child care or voir dire.

The other major issue mentioned by the commission ó the lack of adequate compensation ó is probably less an issue in Santa Monica than in other districts because of its relatively affluent juror base. At least no one complained to me about it.

Many jurors pleaded hardship, but those jurorsí hardships arose because their employers didnít pay for more than 10 days of service.

That would be exceeded if, after their fifth day of service, they were then chosen for a jury in a five-day trial. Iím not sure that the commissionís proposed increase to $40 per day would alleviate that.

Let me suggest a few things for further study:

In cases where jurors will be required, the judge should be able to plan far ahead to give fair warning to enough people to assemble a panel.

Iím sure that would have worked in my two civil cases where only 35 of us were empaneled; it should have been possible even in my criminal case where 85 jurors were needed for the panel.

The money the court would save on the $5 per day fees from those who value their time would easily finance the cost of the beepers and the additional personnel needed to make the system work.

The main problem with the jury system is that itís designed on the premise that it is better for 80 people to sit around for a whole day to keep one judge and a few lawyers from having to wait even as little as one hour while a suitable panel is being collected.

When that problem is addressed, the others, including fair compensation for jurors, will be easier to solve.

Dan Olincy is a Los Angeles attorney.