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Texas will no longer be one of the stingiest states when it comes to paying people for jury duty, raising the $6-a-day rate to $40 in the first increase in more than 50 years. The increase is effective Jan. 1 under a law aimed at raising the state’s low level of jury participation. Jurors will get $6 for their first day of service, and $40 for every day thereafter. “Texas has lagged behind in fair jury fees for a long, long time,” said Supreme Court Judge Nathan Hecht. “It’s disingenuous to look over to them and say, ‘We couldn’t do this without you,’ then hand them $6. At times that won’t pay for parking, and it certainly won’t pay for lunch.” Juror pay varies greatly from state to state. Massachusetts and Colorado pay nothing for the first three days, then $50 a day after that, according to the National Center for State Courts. Other states such as Iowa, Kansas and Maine pay a flat rate of $10 per day. Federal courts pay $40 per day. The $6-a-day rate in Texas has been place since 1954. Lawmakers, lawyers and judges hope the change will increase jury participation and help put more minorities on juries. “If you don’t pay a decent fee for the jurors’ service, you are excluding those people who can’t afford to spend a day in court on $6 a day,” said Phoenix attorney Patricia Refo, who oversaw an American Bar Association project on public participation in the courts. The new law came about after lobbying from the Houston law firm Vinson & Elkins, which did a study that found that in Dallas and Houston, only 19 percent of those called to jury duty appeared. The firm also found that young Hispanics were significantly under-represented in major cities such as Dallas and Houston, where Hispanics make up more than one-third of the population. Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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