In 1998, the Tennessee Bar Association formed the Jury Reform Commission. In its May 1999 report, the Commission recommended that the legislature increase juror pay from $10 to $40 per day, plus parking costs, with a cost of living adjustment. The Committee also recommended that the legislature eliminate occupational and disability exemptions from jury service, expand juror source lists, and adopt a one-day/one-trial model. The report also included recommendations to the court system for various reforms to improve juror comprehension such as juror note taking, juror questioning of witnesses, juror notebooks, instructions at the beginning of trial, and written jury instructions in civil cases. The court implemented many of the reforms aimed at improving comprehension during a six-month pilot project commencing in September of 2001. The court recently extended this pilot project, which includes model jury instructions on notetaking and juror questioning of witnesses, indefinitely.
Despite the Commission’s success in implementing jury trial reforms, Tennessee continues to have numerous professional exemptions, which provide members of chosen professions with an automatic postponement of jury service not enjoyed by others. These include all persons holding elected office; practicing attorneys, certified public accountants, public accountants, physicians and clergy; acting professors or teachers of any college, school or institution of learning; members of fire companies and all full-time law enforcement officers; persons over sixty-five (65) years of age, disabled by bodily infirmity or specially exempted by any other positive law; pharmacists; persons not in the full possession of the senses of hearing or seeing; and practicing registered professional nurses upon written confirmation by the hospital administrator that jury duty service would compromise patient care. Tennessee jurors also continue to receive a mere $10 per diem fee. Tennessee law does, however, require businesses with over five employees to pay their employees their regular wage, minus the juror fee, during the entire period of jury service.