- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Jurors in Charles County soon will be able to fulfill their civic duties and perform a simple act of kindness in one fell swoop.
On Monday, Del. Peter F. Murphy (D-Charles) is expected to announce at the courthouse in La Plata the county’s participation in the Generous Juror program, which allows jurors in participating counties in Maryland the chance to donate all or a portion of their stipend for participation to their local Department of Social Services, which ultimately will benefit foster children in the county. The donations cover the areas that government assistance typically does not, including educational and medical fees and others that improve the overall quality of life.
Howard County was the first in Maryland to adopt the program in 1996. St. Mary’s County has been participating since 2006, and Calvert has been participating for at least 10 years, although a representative at the courthouse said she could not find an exact length of time.
In Charles County, jurors currently receive $15 a day for their service, Charles County Clerk of the Circuit Court Sharon Hancock said, and should one choose to donate money, it is tax deductible. Hancock said last year, the county paid $50,175 to 3,345 trial jurors and $8,895 to 593 who sat on grand juries.
“It’s strictly a volunteer program. It goes to a great need,” Hancock said. While the stipulations for the program already existed in the county’s jury plan previously, Hancock said, approval for its enaction was needed from Charles County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Amy J. Bragunier, which she ultimately provided.
Once the program begins, Hancock said, when jurors elect to make a donation the court will submit a biweekly count of who elected to do so and for how much money to Charles County government, the entity that Hancock said handles all transactions of that nature. The county, in turn, will give the appropriate amount of money to social services.
“Not all jurisdictions are participating, but the ones who do are very successful, and we’re hoping for the same,” Hancock said.
Maria Vogel, the jury commissioner for Montgomery County Circuit Court, said the county has been participating in the program since 2004, and the whole time it has been very well-received by jurors.
“Even when gas prices were extremely a high a few years ago, we expected to see a drop in the amount of donations, and we didn’t,” Vogel said. “It’s absolutely wonderfully successful.”
On average, the court is able to donate around $9,000 a month, Vogel said.
“The jurors can deduct it from their taxes, but it’s got the feel-good advantage of benefitting foster children throughout the county.”