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Revisiting a jury selection question: Is the process fair?

Many can't afford to leave their jobs, and the daily juror pay of $20 simply doesn't cut it.

MINNEAPOLIS — We sat down with retired U.S. District Judge for Minnesota, Hon. James Rosenbaum to discuss the pay, as well as other topics surrounding the jury selection process.

Sharon: How many times, when you were serving, did you have folks who wanted to serve on a jury but could not because they didn't have the financial means to?

Judge Rosenbaum: Probably a number of times. First thing is, most people don't volunteer for jury service. Some people -- obviously a kid who is in college, a doctor usually or surgeons and people who do personal service work -- it's difficult for them to pull themselves out. Mothers, family members taking care of young children it's quite difficult, and a court tries to be mostly accommodating for those types of things.

The topic even came up Tuesday in the Kim Potter trial. Hennepin County District Four judge Regina Chu asked a juror if she was able to get off work if she were to be selected to serve on the jury.

"You indicated that you're a single working person and will need to continue working to support yourself," Judge Chu read from the jury questionnaire. "Are you able to get off work for this trial if you are chosen?"

The juror replied with hesitancy. 

"It's um...possible," she said. "I'd have to talk with work, yeah."

RELATED: 5 more jurors seated Wednesday in Kim Potter trial

Sharon: I'm also thinking of single moms, who cannot step away, or mothers or fathers who are working by themselves, working a low-wage job. They have so many families to feed and $20 a day isn't going to cut it.

Judge Rosenbaum: 20 in the state, 50 in the fed, that doesn't cover very much these days. A mother with an infant child is not going to have a real easy time and that's it -- she's normally not going to be seated. She'll explain that and the judge will make an accommodation for her. I don't think a representative jury necessarily has to have a mother with a 3-motn-old child on it.

Sharon: A lot of those folks are people of color. And that's eliminated, and that's not fair, it doesn't feel fair to me.

Judge Rosenbaum: I can understand that. First of all, they're not necessarily eliminated. A very large number of people including in low wage jobs, which in many cases -- I'm not saying a server in a small restaurant but in most large companies -- they have policies that compensate the spread between what you're paid as a juror and what you'd make if you're working."

And in the state, jurors who are not employed outside the home may be reimbursed for child care during jury service.

Also, while it's not required for employers to pay you while you're on jury duty...they can't fire you for being gone.

If they do, you're entitled to a civil suit, and the courts will pay your attorney fees. 

Judge Rosenbaum: Your compensation is not going to be very large. That is an area where-- there has been a fair amount--not much of an improvement, but courts have really tried. That money comes from the legislature. The judges don't set the compensation for the jurors.

RELATED: Kim Potter trial: Four jurors seated on first day of court

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