Small pay raise for Illinois jurors, big payday for lawyers

The press release practically writes itself: Gov. Pat Quinn signs legislation raising pay for jurors in Illinois.

He'd better not.

Lawmakers have sent the governor a very bad bill, hatched in the final stretch of a lame-duck veto session and rammed through without input from local governments or other stakeholders.

It's been sold as a pay raise for jurors, and yes, that's part of it. They'd get $25 for showing up the first day and $50 a day thereafter if they end up serving on a jury.

Some counties now pay as little as $5 a day. Cook County jurors get $17.20. No, that doesn't compensate them for their time, much less for travel, parking and all the vending machine snacks they eat during those wasted hours in the assembly room — but then neither would $25.

The juror pay raise is a populist ruse, meant to appeal to Quinn: a little favor to the People of Illinois on his way out the door.

In fact, the bill is a gift to the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, which contributes generously to legislative campaign funds. The group represents plaintiffs' attorneys, who file lawsuits for a living. The bill passed by their friends in the General Assembly is designed to stack the juries in those cases in the plaintiffs' favor. Read the Chicago Tribune Editorial in its entirety.