Gathering Place
Kimberly Yamasaki

Jury duty shouldn’t be
hardship for families

As U.S. citizens we are required to perform our civic duty of jury duty. Under normal circumstances I would not mind performing this duty. But when it causes hardships to my family and myself, I do have a problem with it. Here is what I recently went through:

I was summoned for jury duty with only one day listed on the summons. I was informed that I could not be excused for work or babysitting "inconveniences." I assumed that unless selected for a jury I would only be there one day. So my parents took a couple of hours off in the morning to watch my 1-year-old daughter, and my husband took a half-day off of work for that one day. But it turned out that I was on call for this jury selection for the next three weeks. Do you think this was a problem? Extremely! Now I had to go back two days after my first day of jury duty, which left me in a bind for finding someone to look after my daughter on such short notice, and who knows what other days I would have to return? So that day I called the jury clerk to see what I could do and explained my problems to her. She contacted the judge, then called me back and told me that I would have a bench warrant issued for my arrest if I did not show up.

Here's our situation:

My husband works two full-time jobs, just to barely keep food on the table. We receive no government assistance. If he misses work to watch our daughter, we can't afford to pay our bills. Our parents work full time and are not always available to help. We can't afford a babysitter, on top of which when calling around it took me both days to find a day care that would take a 1-year-old on a temporary basis, especially when you don't know which days you will need to leave them. On top of that, we have only one car, so my husband has to stay at my parents' house on the days I do have jury duty so that he is close enough to bike to work.

Now, jury duty pays only $30 a day. Child care is going to cost us $35 a day (and no, you can't take your children with you to jury duty). Thirty dollars a day is equivalent to $3.75 an hour, or $600 a month if you go for five days a week. This isn't even minimum wage. Since you are required to go, you should be paid at least minimum wage for the time that you are there, if they are not going to reimburse you for lost wages. After all, minimum wage is based on the cost of living, and that's usually quite low. Shouldn't you be paid enough to live on? I also believe the state should either provide child care at the court for no charge to jurors, or reimburse you for your child-care expenses.

All in all, some changes need to be made. Jury duty should not be a financial burden for people, and you should not have to worry about what is going to happen with your child during this time. I know I am not the only one with these types of problems. Hopefully for everyone's sake something will be done to resolve these issues. I am going to do everything I can to help resolve them.

Kimberly Yamasaki lives in Kihei, Maui.

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