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National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

www.NACo.org

 

 ‘Generous Jurors’ help keep county programs afloat

By Christopher Johnson
EDITORIAL ASSISTANT

It’s a task as despised as doing your taxes: Jury Duty. What many don’t know is the money they earn can help county programs stay afloat through a Generous Jurors Program.

Jurors get paid anywhere from $9–$25 per day of jury duty, plus any mileage for driving. All have the option of keeping the money, but now some counties are asking for jurors to donate it back to fund programs in need due to the high rate of budget cuts.

With many county budgets in the red, counties such as Eau Claire, Wisc. welcome alternative ways to help programs continue to run smoothly.

"With county budgets being stressed and some programs not getting as much funding as they have previously, every little bit helps," said Kristina Aschenbrenner, Eau Claire County clerk of courts.

The Eau Claire County Board recently voted to put juror-donated funds toward a new county program called the Veterans Treatment Court. The court is similar in principle to drug and juvenile diversion initiatives, but with a focus on the special circumstances impacting the lives of veterans facing (primarily non-violent) criminal charges. Court staff will also use the same principles as the Drug Court, focusing on effective, long-term treatment of substance abuse and mental issues through the VA with intensive court supervision.

Since June 2010, $1,000 has been raised from the Generous Jurors Program to support the Mental Health Court with a handful of jurors donating their wages each trial.

Delaware County, Pa. started its program in 2003 and has raised more than $450,000 for county programs. Earlier this year, the program extended its reach to send aid to Haitian children affected by the earthquake that hit the island in January. The Haitian effort resulted in a $6,130 donation to UNICEF to help injured or orphaned Haitian children.

Anne Arundel County, Md.’s Department of Social Services uses any juror fees to benefit foster children. Among the items covered with these fees are medical and dental expenses, academic tutoring, clothing, school activity and athletic fees.

Even in stressful economic times, people are generous in donating their juror fees to ensure program needs are met.

"It is a financial hardship for a lot of people so those able to donate are really appreciated," Eau Claire’s Aschenbrenner added.