In these volatile economic times, a 25 percent pay raise might seem like a pipe dream.
But that's what's in store for those called to serve federal jury duty after President Donald Trump last week signed a bill increasing the daily rate for juror service from $40 to $50. The pay bump, the first since 1990, takes effect May 7.
The new rate is nearly three times the paltry $17.20-per-day paid to citizens called for Cook County jury service. And it comes on top of several other well-established perks of jury service at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, from reimbursement for travel -- currently 54.5 cents a mile -- to a paid lunch at the Fresh Seasons Cafe, on the courthouse's second floor.
Not to mention those jury room pastries.
U.S. District Chief Judge Ruben Castillo told the Tribune on Friday that the pay raise was a long time coming and that easing the economic burden of serving could make jury pools more reflective of the overall population.
"More diverse juries is what we're all after," Castillo said.
The windfall was included in a bill that provides the federal judiciary with $7.1 billion in discretionary spending, an increase of $184 million from the previous fiscal year, according to a news release from the U.S. Courts.
Also included was an $8-an-hour boost in the pay rate for federal panel attorneys, who are appointed to represent indigent defendants facing criminal charges. Panel attorneys will now make $140 an hour, according to the release. Another $437 million was earmarked for construction projects revamping federal courthouse facilities in Florida, Alabama and Pennsylvania.
"This is an excellent result and enables the Judiciary to fulfill its mission," James Duff, director of the U.S. Courts Administrative Office, said in a statement. "We are especially pleased that Congress recognized the critical public service provided by the citizens who serve on juries as well as the attorneys who represent defendants who can't afford a lawyer."