No one ever got rich by serving on jury duty, but county officials have been fielding a number of calls in recent weeks from angry jurors wanting to know where their checks for jury service are.
Clerks in both felony state district courts and the two county courts-at-law have been getting phone calls and emails from jurors and prospective jurors complaining about not receiving county checks in a timely manner for their public service.
McLennan County District Clerk Jon Gimble, whose office is responsible for sending out jury notices and keeping track of juror pay, said recent upgrades to the county’s computer system caused a few “glitches,” which threw payments to jurors behind by two or three weeks.
A woman who served on a jury the first week of June in a sex offender civil commitment case in 19th State District Court complained in an email to the court dated June 26 that her husband served on a jury a few weeks before she did and he received his check “just a couple days later.”
“I wouldn’t ask if it was just a couple days, but I do not get paid at work for this. If you could please let me know. Thank you,” she wrote.
Three weeks later, she wrote the court again.
“I still have yet to receive any payment for my services,” she wrote. “I was out of work for 4 days. I don’t understand why everyone I speak with says they receive their payment within a week of service. I know this may seem petty but that is $120 I am not getting.”
A second woman complained to a court clerk that she had to write a personal check to her employer to cover the amount she was supposed to get from jury service because her employer did not believe she had not received her check from the county yet. She explained that if she wanted to be paid by her employer while she was on jury duty, he required she give her jury pay to the company.
Even a county employee who served on jury duty a few weeks ago wondered aloud Friday about why she had not been paid.
Gimble said upgrades to the county computer network that will allow potential jurors to respond to a jury summons online created problems for the current system. Also, he said, a treasurer’s office employee who processes the checks, stuffs envelopes and mails them was on vacation recently.
“We’ve been working on systems upgrades to the Jury program over the past two months, and catching up on the backlog,” Gimble wrote in an email response to Judge Ralph Strother on Tuesday. “Additionally, jury check runs take second chair to the county’s check run every-other week.”
Gimble predicted he and the treasurer’s office employee “should have it caught up-to-date by the end of next week.”
To help streamline the system, Gimble has proposed to the district judges that his office pay the 230 to 270 jurors who appear for jury duty each week in cash for the first day they show up. That would eliminate the need to write about 75 percent of the checks written weekly for jury service, he said.
Jurors who show up for the first day of a case are paid $7.50 for that day. If they are selected for a jury or are assigned to return to another court on another day, they are paid $40 a day after that.
Juror lists are processed by Gimble’s office and then sent to the treasurer’s office, Gimble said. Checks written on county coffers must be sent through a positive pay process, a financial security system in which the county uploads each check being written directly to the bank so the bank knows in advance what checks are being written, Gimble said. After the checks are cut, they must be put in an envelope, addressed and mailed.
A treasurer’s office employee referred questions about the juror payment process to the district clerk’s office.
She said payments to seven charities that jurors can donate their payments for jury service to are being paid as directed by the jurors and Gimble’s office.
Those charities include the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, Court-Appointed Special Advocates of McLennan and Hill counties, CPS Advisory Board, Family Abuse Center, McLennan County Crime Victims Fund, McLennan County Dispute Resolution Center and State Crime Victims Fund.