Who's Worth More?
Who's worth more, judges or juries?
I'm sure there's some great philosophical debate, but let's leave that for another day. In Illinois, judges must be worth more, and the attitude of Madison County's Chief Circuit Judge indicates it.
According to the Intelligencer:
A proposal to triple jury pay, from $10 to $30 per day, has died in the state Senate. To cover the increased expense, House Bill 339 would have allowed counties to increase the fees -- by $10 for each plaintiff and defendant -- that attorneys must pay when they seek a jury trial.
The jury fee is currently $212.50.
Chief Judge Edwards Ferguson was not particularly sad to see the bill fail.
"The magic bullet, of course, was 'We'll have the ones who use the courts pay for it,' but that's getting so onerous," he said Friday at a meeting of the Madison County Judiciary Committee.
Interesting comment on user fees, coming from a Judge that now sits in a new Criminal Courts Building that was paid for by a case that has nothing to do with Madison County's Criminal Court.
For the record, the ICJL supported the bi-partisan-sponsored Senate Bill 1481, which included the increased juror pay with a host of other jury reform initiatives. That bill didn't emerge from Senate Judiciary Committee. The ICJL did not take a position on House Bill 339.
Back to the story:
Last year the county paid jurors about $80,000, not including about $50,000 for mileage and $1,700 for meals.
So Madison County spent about $131, 700 for all of its juries. Meanwhile, Judge Ferguson, one of eight judges that calls Madison County home, makes $136,546 a year. Eleven other Associate Judges draw $127,247 a year.
Let's compare yearly costs:
Madison County Juries: $131,700
Madison County Judges: $2,492,085
Judge Ferguson makes about $525 each workday. A 12-person jury altogether gets paid $120 plus mileage. Is it that unfair to pay the jury in a manner that is more equitable to what the judge is making?
And, how can the increased filing fees really overburden Madison County lawyers, some of whom have earned $13,100 a hour in class action litigation?