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Indiana is the latest of 14 states to pass legislation drafted by a tort reform group working with state legislators to help states make jury service more attractive. The Indiana law, passed earlier this year, incorporates provisions from a model bill drafted by the Chicago-based American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a tort reform group, working with the Center for Jury Studies of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). These provisions include eliminating automatic exemptions and providing employment and leave-time protection. ALEC’s model bill, called the Jury Patriotism Act, was drafted in 2002 and first introduced and passed in various forms in Arizona, Louisiana and Utah the following year. Five states followed suit in both 2004 and 2005. Indiana is the only state to pass such legislation this year. But Indiana’s new law does not include one of the key provisions in the model bill-passed earlier in four other states-that creates a “lengthy-trial fund” to reimburse jurors for lost wages. Arizona’s law, which does create such a fund, requires reimbursement of jurors for the difference between their jury pay and lost wages. Arizona is the first state to enact a provision for reimbursing lost wages of jurors who serve on trials for more than 10 days-a key feature in ALEC’s model reform bill. Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi have passed, but not yet implemented, this provision. Arizona’s lengthy-trial fund is meant to provide a more representative jury pool by eliminating the financial hardship faced by the self-employed or those whose employers do not pay them while they serve as jurors. The 10 states whose laws do not include a lengthy-trial fund share other features of the model bill, such as “one day or one trial” jury service, eliminating occupational exemptions and providing employment and leave-time protection. In addition to the states mentioned above, Colorado, Missouri and Vermont passed legislation in 2004, and Alabama, Maryland, New Mexico, Ohio and Texas passed it last year. “The judges are saying that people are now staying for longer trials who wouldn’t have been able to, which is what you want,” said G. Thomas Munsterman of the NCSC. Chris Mather, spokeswoman for the American Trial Lawyers Association in Washington, said that her group supports increasing participation in the jury system, but is wary of tort reformers’ involvement. Tort reformers’ assertions that defendants will be judged by their peers sound as if the legislation is intended to favor pro-defense juries, she said.

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