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How to Make $150 & Get a Free Lunch By Going to “Fake” Jury Duty

April 3, 2014
by Steve Gillman
Contributor
Jury Box

I was paid $150 for a day’s work as a surrogate juror a couple month’s back. Ironically a few weeks later I was sent a real jury notice, and it said, “Jurors will be compensated $15 for each day in court.”

For “fake” jury service I was not only paid ten times as much, but I got snacks and a nice lunch!

Of course this was a live session, as opposed to online surrogate jury service, and that’s an important distinction. Let’s look at both types, but first let’s answer the question some readers will have by now…

 

What is a Surrogate Juror?

Attorneys sometimes do a practice run before they go to trial in the courtroom. For this they turn to companies that put together surrogate juries, also called mock juries. People from the same area where the case will be tried are hired for these mock trials. Attorneys present both sides of the case and the jurors discuss it and explain what they would do.  This helps lawyers decide whether to pursue a case to the end or to settle, and they get an idea of what a real jury might award for damages.

How do you get hired to be on a surrogate jury? There are two types, each with different pay scales. We’ll start with cases where you participate in a live session.

 

Live Surrogate Juries

I responded to an ad in the local newspaper a few weeks before the mock trial. I can’t say what the case was about (all jurors sign a confidentiality agreement), but it did take the whole day.

There were thirty of us, and we all listened to the case in a hotel conference room. Videos and other pieces of evidence were presented. After a nice lunch there were closing statements from both sides. Then we were each required to participate in discussions, and our deliberations were videotaped.

We never knew which side actually paid for everything, and nobody would tell us, but at the end of the day a representative of National Research Staffing, the company that arranged the mock trial, handed us each a check for $150. On their website you’ll notice they also organize social science research studies for which they need participants. There is a questionnaire to fill out if you would like to participate. They also list a phone number to call if you have any questions or want one of their recruiters to fill out the forms for you. Another outfit that hires surrogate jurors for in-person assignments is SignupDirect.com. They pay $100 or more per day.

Qualifications for serving on a mock jury vary depending on what the attorneys want in each case, but here are some common minimal requirements. You need to be…

  • At least 18 years old.
  • A citizen.
  • Of sound mind.
  • Able to read and write.
  • Not a felon.

 

Online Surrogate Juries

Another way to serve as a mock juror is online. The minimum criteria for participation are roughly the same as listed above for live service. But there are some real differences in the process.

First, you won’t be working with others. You might be one of fifty jurors selected to render a verdict on a case, but typically you’ll do it alone in front of your computer from the comfortable anonymity of your home. You’ll review the evidence online, which might include transcripts, photos and videos. Then you’ll answer a series of questions.

Second, you won’t make as much money for each case compared to live service. On the other hand you might make just as much or more per hour, because the online version doesn’t take all day. Here are three places you can sign up, with a few notes about what each one offers:

1. Ejury

Although eJury pays less than other companies (only $5 to $10 per case), it’s worth visiting their website to get a feel for how this works. Their information page explains the process, and there is a sample $10 case you can review to see what kind of evidence is presented and the types of questions you’ll have to answer. They say that a survey of their “eJurors” found the average time spent is 35 minutes for a six-page case, but expect your first one to take longer.

2. Trial Juries

TrialJuries.com pays at least $30 per case, and even more for complex cases. You may have to listen to audio recordings or watch videos of depositions, as well as review documents. They say that their cases take about an hour.

3. Online Verdict

This is perhaps the best of the three options listed here because of the potential for higher pay. Surrogate jurors are paid from $20 to $60 for each case reviewed, and the process is said to take 20 to 60 minutes. The only possible drawback to working for this company is that they do not pay via PayPal like the others. They mail a check a week or two after you complete a case, in order to be sure that you live where you say you do.

 

What Else?

Each company has its own rules, and the lawyers who hire them might impose additional requirements. You might be disqualified if you or anyone in your family is an attorney, for example. You might also be disqualified if you have been involved in a similar case yourself in the last ten years. They’ll let you know what qualifies or disqualifies you.

Because you need to be from the same city, zip code, or federal judicial district as the court handling the real case, how much work you can get depends quite a bit on where you’re living. If your primary residence is a cabin eighty miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska, don’t hold your breath waiting for an assignment. But it costs nothing to sign up, so if you are anywhere that is not too remote, why not try being a surrogate juror?

Your Turn: Have you ever participated in a mock jury trial? What was your experience? Would you give this a try?

by Steve Gillman
Contributor for The Penny Hoarder

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