FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 27, 2009
Macomb County jurors with pagers have more time to shop Mount Clemens business leaders thrilled
Over 18,000 Macomb County jurors will no longer endure boring days in a crowded waiting room with a new paging system giving them the freedom to roam downtown Mount Clemens. Businessman Gabe Anton, Congressman Sander Levin, and the Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds will personally hand out pagers to jurors Thursday morning. Jurors may shop or simply get some fresh air while waiting to be sent to a courtroom, the result of year-long business and government effort to improve jury duty and help the community.
“This is a textbook example of business and government working together,” said the Macomb County Clerk. “Over 18,000 jurors per year have Mr. Anton and Congressman Levin to thank for this service.”
The Macomb County Clerk proposed the plan last year. First came tough questions from the county’s judges, then funding issues. Mount Clemens businessman Gabe Anton drummed up support from the Downtown Development Authority, Community Central Bank and other local businesses, coming to the rescue, providing over half the cost. County commissioners did the rest.
"We view the jurors as our guests, we would like to make their juror stay as enjoyable as possible,” said Businessman Gabe Anton. “We're very excited for the prospects of this new pager system. It will introduce the jurors, many who are new visitors to Mount Clemens, to our businesses in the Downtown."
Then it was discovered an FCC license and consent from Canada’s FCC was required. That’s when Congressman Sander Levin came to the rescue and facilitated the government approvals.
“This pager program is yet another example of the innovative ideas of the Macomb County Clerk and I was pleased to pitch in to facilitate the government approvals.” said Rep. Levin. “It should make for happier jurors and increased economic activity downtown.”
In 2008, the number of people who served on Macomb County jury duty was 18,040. Jurors may use a pager if they have not yet been sent to a courtroom. The paging system allows them to be promptly available for judges. Tests show a range of over one mile and the pagers have an out-of-range warning.
Most of a juror’s day is spent waiting. There are few televisions in the jury room. It can be crowded and loud. Most jurors do not actually serve on a case. In 2008, of the 18,040 jurors who appeared for jury duty, only 1,703 actually served on a trial. This sometimes leads to frustration by jurors who feel their time was not needed. But cases are often settled shortly before trial and having jurors in the building often helps motivate litigants to settle cases, even if jurors don’t actually serve on a trial.
With pagers, jurors now have the freedom to get something to eat, shop or take care of personal or work-related business in the downtown Mount Clemens area. They may be paged to return to the jury room at any moment, but would not necessarily have to wait in the jury room the entire day. When jurors are paged, they must return to the jury room within 10 minutes or face the same penalty given to people who fail to appear for jury duty. In 2008, 24 bench warrants were issued for jurors who did not do their duty.
The Macomb County Clerk believes jurors who have a good experience on jury duty will tend to make good decisions. This program might also reduce the frequency of requests to be excused from jury duty. Each time a juror requests to be excused, there is a cost to the county in terms of computer use, staff time, postage and printing for confirmation letters, and processing. If jurors know they can leave the building, they may be more willing to do their civic duty.
“Jurors will get to know our beautiful downtown, our shops and restaurants,” said Arthur Mullen, director of the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority. “They’ll get a flavor of the city and be interested in coming back.”
The Macomb County Clerk believes small business owners in Mount Clemens have sufficient capacity to accommodate over 18,000 jurors annually spending more time in the downtown area instead of the jury room. This program would also help Mount Clemens redevelopment efforts by giving jurors who normally may not visit the area an opportunity to see what the city has to offer.
The Macomb County Board of Commissioners approved the bid process and USA Mobility, Inc. was selected. The startup cost was $29,746 with an annual cost of $2,182. Over half of the start up cost was provided by local businesses. The Macomb County Clerk will provide staff to run the system.
The Macomb County Clerk has another major improvement planned: paying jurors in cash would save taxpayers about $9,500 per year in postage costs. Jurors will soon be visiting Mount Clemens businesses with pagers and cash in hand.
This is not the first improvement the Macomb County Clerk proposed for jurors. She also:
- Started a one-day, one-trial system that reduced jury duty from one week to one day for most jurors and reduced annual costs by about $70,000,
- Partnered with SMART to provide free bus tickets for jurors without transportation,
- Provides free wireless Internet service in the jury room so jurors can stay in touch with family or work while waiting to be picked for a trial, and
- Partnered with the Mount Clemens Public Library to provide free library books delivered from any library in the county, waiting when jurors arrive.