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Jury Pay Stays at $50/Day, as Senate Judiciary Kills HB 1098

South Dakota offers the highest pay in the nation for jurors, $50 a day, plus mileage. That matches what Uncle Sam pays jurors in federal cases. But even that relatively generous rate means a juror sitting in court for a full day makes less than South Dakota’s $10.80 minimum wage, meaning that any South Dakotan who takes a day off work to hear and decide a trial takes a financial loss. The cost of serving skews the jury pool:

…juries often wind up packed with senior citizens, including some who look at service as extra income, and well-paid citizens whose employers cover the cost of their time away.

That has implications for justice, according to Pat Pardy, a circuit court judge who testified as an individual to support the bill. Citizens have a constitutional right to a trial by a jury of their peers, but Pardy said many judges will exercise discretion when jurors ask to be excused for financial hardship.

The socioeconomic backgrounds of the resulting juries might not reflect the background of a defendant or their community.

“You start releasing them, and it starts creating potential constitutional issues with the jury panel,” Pardy said [John Hult, “Lawmakers Nix Bill to Raise SD’s Nation-Leading Juror Pay,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.03.03].

Rookie Representative Tim Reisch (R-8/Howard) tried to rectify that unfairness with House Bill 1098, which would have raised juror pay to $80 for the first five days of service and $120 for any subsequent days in court. That’s still below minimum wage for the first five days, but it’s progress.

Unfortunately, HB 1098 would have been progress at the expense of counties, whom Reisch failed to fund for this mandated largesse:

“Let us not forget that it is the counties who are bearing the brunt of this looming economic crisis. It is not the state of South Dakota who is actually incurring the cost,” [Hughes County Manager Lori] Jacobson said. “As the bill is written, it will be another unfunded mandate placed upon the counties.”

The proposal would cost Hughes County $20,000 to $40,000 a year, she said. Pennington County Commissioner Gary Drewes told the committee it would cost his county $180,000-$200,000.

“These dollars, again, would come from our property taxpayers,” Drewes said [Hult, 2023.03.03].

After seven minutes of deliberation, Senate Judiciary spared the counties this additional expense and sentenced HB 1098 to death on a 5–2 vote.

Why didn’t Rep. Reisch put some state money where his mouth is?

After the vote, Reisch told South Dakota Searchlight that in order to secure state funding for something like juror payments, he’d need the support of Gov. Kristi Noem – something he didn’t have this year for his bill as written [Hult, 2023.03.03].

Oh, well, if we’re waiting for Governor Noem to demonstrate the ability to pay attention to practical policy issues, let alone get them through the Legislature, then alas, jurors, I guess you’re stuck.


  1. Jake 2023-03-04 10:20

    Good idea, and reasons for it are just and right. But, given the ineptitude of our current governess to pay attention to things pertinent to South Dakotans (she’s much more comfortable in nation spot-lights-searching fame) another great idea goes on the legislative waste heap!

  2. e platypus onion 2023-03-04 12:51

    Jury duty. like forced maternity, is government taking from citizens and each should be just compensated. Forced births should be worth a couple hundred thousand per live birth so the fetus needs are met for the first few years.

  3. grudznick 2023-03-04 12:59

    Mr. Onion is righter-than-right.

  4. Mark Anderson 2023-03-04 13:32

    I’ve done my jury duty. One of my wife’s friends who used to work for them said they never follow up on the initial letter for a no show. Life in a large state.

  5. John 2023-03-04 13:46

    When the counties are able and willing to jack up property tax assessments 19.6% a year and build new lavish jails and temples to law enforcement . . . those same counties can find it in their budgets to pay jurors a living replacement wage.

  6. Jake 2023-03-04 13:58

    John, my neighbor-hood assessments up 40% in some cases this year! Woe for the Black Hills of Dakota!

  7. Nick Nemec 2023-03-04 16:03

    Once again property tax assessments are not property tax bills. Assessments are an estimate of property value and keeping them close to full and true value is critical to a fair property tax system. If assessments have gone up 40% in a year you are in an area with general property value increases.

  8. John 2023-03-04 18:09

    Folks, certainly assessments are not property tax bills; yet does anyone argue the two are not correlated?
    that property values increased 19 to 40 in one year in South Dakota.

    Perhaps South Dakota needs a legal buffer, especially for the retired, that caps assessments at a percentage to be determined, perhaps tied to the inflation rate, perhaps tied to the cost of land and residential construction commodities, or cost of living.

  9. Anne Beal 2023-03-04 19:59

    Mr Onion, Didn’t you see the foreman of the Georgia Grand Jury? Jury duty is like Band Camp!
    Who knew???

  10. larry kurtz 2023-03-04 20:24

    That Mrs. Beal has the brass to wrestle here must jostle grud’s loins.

  11. Arlo Blundt 2023-03-04 20:34

    Why are we pinching pennies on something as essential as Jury Duty?? Can’t the legislature figure out a system to annually reimburse the counties for Jury expenses?? Doesn’t seem like a mind bender.

  12. e platypus onion 2023-03-05 08:38

    Anne Beal,..,… No.

  13. Mark Anderson 2023-03-05 08:39

    Anne Beal speaks for the conned.

  14. Nick Nemec 2023-03-05 09:04

    No John. Assessments need to be kept close to actual value. If the legislature decides senior citizens need a property tax break on their homes that break can be accomplished through some other mechanism.

  15. Richard Schriever 2023-03-05 09:09

    John – you obviously do not understand how correlation works. If one were to plug the variables “assessed values” and “tax amount” and “mill levy” into a multivariate analysis of variance formula, there would indeed be some level of “correlation” (a relationship between the three variables). However, it would not be a “positive” relationship between assessed property values and at least the mill levy. It would be negative between those two. It would likely be positive – to an insignificant level between and amongst the other three sets of variables and neutral (also insignificant) overall. I.E., there is NO mentionable correlation. At least, that is my hypothesis, absent a nice pile of real data to plug in. But I’ll suggest you go ahead and give it a try. Practice some real live science based economic analysis. Test YOUR hypothesis, since it’s your idea to begin with. Donlt just go throwing unsupported verbiage out there as a “claim”.

  16. Richard Schriever 2023-03-05 09:18

    Jury duty pay should be “correlated” (occur in a direct 1:1 ratio) with the SD Minimum wage. Assume an 8-hour day and make it at the Federally MANDATED overtime for anything in excess of 40 hours in a week. Withold SS and Income taxes. Make it actually comply with law. Seems right for the job it is, no? Like it “correlates” (conforms perfectly).

  17. John 2023-03-05 09:19

    Give me ONE example where the assessment increased 19+% or more and then the subsiquent tax went down. That is a correlation.
    Just one ping, please.

  18. Nick Nemec 2023-03-05 09:48

    Your property tax is determined by the budgets of the property taxing jurisdictions and then divided across all properties in the jurisdiction. If property tax on a parcel went up it is because budgets went up or the value of that parcel is a greater fraction of the total value of all parcels. Valuations must be kept close to actual values because taxing jurisdictions that cross county lines must tax fairly across those lines.

  19. leslie 2023-03-05 09:48

    so funny!

  20. leslie 2023-03-05 09:51

    Anne, have you ever spent months or even years on a grand jury? it changes peoples lives. hardly “band camp”

  21. Richard Schriever 2023-03-05 12:23

    John, I repeat – you do not understand correlation. ANY 2 THINGS – pick two things – ANYTHING has “a correlation” of some sort with ANY OTHER THING. Blonde hair and size 11 feet have “a correlation”. The questions are A. is it a positive or negative correlation, and B. is it MEANINGFUL, I.E., “significant”? Can one PREDICT the other? Or is it simply an example of the first “relationship” I cited above. What you are searching for is a CAUSAL relationship, which a correlation – or corollary relationship CANNOT demonstrate.

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