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Democratic senator looks to boost Virginia jury duty pay for the first time in 30 years

Sen. Lionel Spruill speaks into a microphone. The name tag in front of him reads "Sen. Deeds"
Crixell Matthews
Sen. Lionell Spruill speaks at a 2022 committee meeting. Spruill has introduced legislation to increase to rate of pay for Virginia jurors for the first time in 30 years. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Virginia jurors could see their first pay raise in three decades under legislation filed by state Sen. Lionell Spruill (D-Chesapeake).

Spruill’s bill would increase the daily allowance for serving on a Virginia civil or criminal case jury to $100 a day, up from $30. Spruill said he’s heard from attorneys and potential jurors in his Hampton Roads district who say pay is contributing to a problem in filling out jury pools.

Right now, Spruill said retirees are most willing and able to serve at a rate that works out to $3.75 an hour for an 8-hour day.

“The younger folks say they're not coming for that little bit of money,” Spruill said in an interview.

Lawmakers haven’t touched the pay rate for jury duty since 1993, when they boosted it from $20 to $30.

Federal courts pay jurors $50 a day. And Virginia does currently outpay many states, according to a 2022 analysis from the National Center for State Courts, with pay ranging from $4 to $50 per day.

The General Assembly seemed poised to address the issue last year. A similar bill from state Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack) unanimously cleared the Senate with a substitute that reduced the rate to $50 a day. 

But it was ultimately killed in a largely party-line vote in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates over concerns about funding the increase.

“Because of the COVID situation, the fact that we had not experienced jury trials, we don't know what those costs are going to be,” said Del. Terry Austin (R-Botetourt) during a 2022 committee meeting. Austin said at the time that lawmakers could revisit the issue in 2023.

Lewis’ bill would have cost the state about $1.5 million, based on 2019, pre-pandemic figures included in an impact statement from the department of planning and budget.

The idea has traction with at least one potential juror: Marquita Robinson. While the Henrico County resident said she’s never served on a jury before, she said the state has a responsibility to better compensate residents for their time.

“Regardless of how much you're making, they're only giving you $30,” Robinson said. “ I mean, and I don't have a choice — I have to go, you know? It's just not right.”

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.