The Illinois House on Tuesday approved a measure that would reduce the number of jurors hearing civil cases from 12 to six.
The proposal, an amendment to SB3075, passed along party lines 67-46-2 in a Democratically-controlled chamber. If approved by the Senate and the governor, it would go into effect June 1, 2015.
"It is a bad bill," Rep. Ron Sandack, R-Downers Grove, said during floor debate. "If it were a good bill, this sponsor or any sponsor would be bringing it next month under a new administration where we would learn whether its a good idea to reduce civil juries, whether there really are any cost savings and whether there are any unintended consequences."
Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, defended the measure during debate by pointing to a provision that would bump juror pay to $25 per day for the first day of service and $50 per day thereafter for necessary service. Depending on the county, jurors are currently paid either $4, $5 or $10 or higher amounts per day.
"This bill doesn't go far enough," Martwick said. "This bill doesn't compensate [jurors] far enough but what it does do is it makes a very reasonable step by cutting administrative costs because you have deal with half the jury pool."
The amendments to the measure further provide that if alternate jurors are requested, an additional fee established by a county can be charged for each alternate juror requested. For cases filed prior to the effective date, if a party paid for a jury of 12, that party may demand a jury of 12 upon proof of payment.
Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Oak Lawn, introduced Amendment 1 to SB3075 on Nov. 25. Amendment 2, filed on Tuesday, clarified language and restored a provision allowing a county board to set a higher amount of compensation for jurors.
Burke said the idea behind the bill is not a new one and acknowledged that the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association asked her to support the measure, which is now before the Senate Executive Committee on motions to concur the amendments.
Burke, Sandack and Martwick are all licensed attorneys.
The General Assembly is in its fifth day of veto session. The legislature sets aside six days to wrap up old business, and sometimes fast tracks controversial measures before a new session begins in January.
Illinois News Network contributed to the report with audio of Sandack and Martwick.