Presidio County Commissioners Court votes to increase juror pay

MARFA — At Wednesday morning’s meeting, Presidio County Commissioners Court voted to increase pay for residents who respond to jury duty summons from $10 to $20 for their first day. Jurors selected for trial will see their stipends increased from $40 to $58 each day they serve in court. 

The Presidio County Court hears misdemeanors. Jurors can either be called for a petit jury — which decides a defendant’s guilt or innocence — or a grand jury, which decides whether or not to bring formal criminal charges against a potential defendant. 

County and District Court Clerk Florcita Zubia introduced Wednesday’s item, explaining that the county was overdue by two weeks in complying with new state law. HB 3474 — an omnibus court administration bill — made several adjustments to fees, salaries and stipends associated with court systems large and small across the state of Texas. 

The adjustments to juror pay were supposed to go into effect September 1, so commissioners acted swiftly and decisively to comply with the new legislation. 

Though Wednesday’s vote came down in light of statewide mandates, Zubia has been advocating for higher juror pay for over a year — long before this year’s legislative session. 

Zubia brought the issue to the attention of county officials last July, arguing that higher payouts for jurors could increase the county’s abysmal turnout, which tends to hover around 10%. Last year she had to cancel a trial after she mailed 400 jury duty notices — and 28 county residents showed up at the courthouse. 

Commissioners took no action this summer, instead pledging to revisit the issue at some point in the future. In the interest of making some sort of progress, they streamlined the payment system so that jurors had the option of being paid in cash. 

Precinct 4 Commissioner David Beebe raised concerns about how much the pay raise would impact the county — but Zubia explained that the state reimbursed some of the money. Some of that reimbursement is culled from jury reimbursement fees — a $4 charge tacked on to convictions of all offenses except the most minor pedestrian and traffic-related infractions. 

Zubia was hoping the county would continue to keep brainstorming ways to increase its juror response rate. “There’s been a jury shortage no matter where you go, but Presidio County is low,” she said.