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A new pilot program that will compensate low- to moderate-income jurors for their service — the first of its kind in California — begins this week in San Francisco.
Starting on Monday, March 7, the “Be The Jury” program will provide jurors $100 per day of service if they meet the income requirements.
According to city officials, the program aims to create more racially diverse jurors, as income inequality is strongly linked to race and ethnicity, with juries often being disproportionately made up of people who are either covered by their employer or have the means to serve without compensation.
Jurors who qualify for the program must earn less than 80 percent of the area median income, or $74,600 for a single person and $106,550 for a family of four, and are not compensated by their employer for jury duty.
Jurors who are self-employed or unemployed also qualify for the program.
“Every person accused of a crime deserves to have a jury of their peers, but too often that is not the case for our economically disadvantaged clients who are often people of color.”Mano Raju, San Francisco public defender
The program was made possible through Assembly Bill 1452, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. The bill received broad support from San Francisco city leaders, with Treasurer Jose Cisneros, Public Defender Mano Raju, and District Attorney Chesa Boudin cosponsoring it.
“The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is a cornerstone of our criminal legal system, but we know too often our juries don’t meet that principle because of issues around who has the time and resources to serve,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
“With the launch of the Be The Jury Pilot Program, San Francisco will be taking another big step to ensure that the legal system serves everyone,” she said.
“Every person accused of a crime deserves to have a jury of their peers, but too often that is not the case for our economically disadvantaged clients who are often people of color,” Raju said. “The Be The Jury program will enhance justice for the accused and welcome more San Franciscans to participate in this powerful civic duty. I am thrilled that this pilot is up and running.”
“Justice demands that our juries reflect the diverse backgrounds of the victims, witnesses, and accused persons whose lives are impacted by their decisions,” Boudin said. “We must continue to find ways to promote and enable jury service for all San Franciscans, so that our juries reflect our diverse communities and are able to administer justice for all San Franciscans.”
Funding for the program will be provided through philanthropic efforts, secured by the city’s Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office’s Financial Justice Project.