In the past few years, West Virginia has worked hard to pull itself out of the bottom of ILR’s State Lawsuit Climate Report. In 2021 alone, the legislature and governor enacted vital legal reforms, including preventing over-naming in asbestos litigation and creating an intermediate court of appeals. As the state continues to shed its reputation as having one of the worst lawsuit climates in the country, a new bill could help juries reflect a more diverse range of West Virginians.
Mountain State lawmakers have introduced House Bill 4280 to bump up jury pay. The bill, introduced by state Delegate Trenton Barnhart, is a significant step to making it easier for residents to participate on juries without facing financial hardships.
Jurors in West Virginia are currently “responsible for the cost of meals, parking, and any other incidental expenses incurred as the result of service” and are only reimbursed $40 for each day of required attendance plus round-trip mileage. HB 4280 would double this reimbursement to $80 per day of attendance.
The bill will help hourly-wage workers, independent contractors, or small-business owners who can’t afford to miss work. Arizona enacted similar programs so potential jurors could serve on long, complex trials and not worry about missing work and missing out on needed income.
According to ILR’s research paper, 101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems, during the first year of Arizona’s program, the state was able to pay $130,000 to 172 jurors on 40 lengthy trials. This means those who otherwise couldn’t have afforded to serve on a jury were able to participate in an essential American civic duty.
Enacting HB 4280 makes sense. The West Virginia Legislature should pass the bill and send it to Gov. Justice’s desk as soon as possible.