The Macomb Daily
Monday, March 23, 2009
Jurors to get pagers
By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
In the past, many people compared a call to jury duty with a trip to the dentist's office.
But jurors serving in Macomb County Circuit Court will, in some sense, liken the experience to dining at their favorite restaurant.
Within weeks a new program will be launched that will provide jurors with a pager, similar to those handed out at busy eateries, so they don't endure the tedious process of sitting for hours waiting in the courthouse jury room.
"We've done a lot of things to make jury duty more palatable," said county Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, who oversees the juror selection process. "In this case, they can go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, or just get some fresh air."
Jurors will be free to wander downtown Mount Clemens, as long as they can report back to the courthouse within 10 minutes once they're paged for duty.
Sabaugh's plan so intrigued the downtown business community that they collectively contributed $15,000 to the effort — more than half the total cost of purchasing 150 pagers.
"We think this is a great opportunity because the jurors will be able to walk around downtown … and experience our unique, independent businesses," said Arthur Mullen, executive director of the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority.
The circuit court handles 18,000 jurors a year, with 5,700 — those chosen for a trial — serving more than one day.
First proposed in 2007, the pager process, officials say, would make the jury duty experience more relaxing, producing jurors that are in a better frame of mind, and reducing the number of those who request to be excused.
But making the $27,000 pager program a reality proved far more difficult than imagined. Because typical, restaurant-style pagers encountered "dead spots" in the downtown area during a trial run, the plan required a stronger signal and a radio tower atop the old County Building.
That change, in turn, required approval from the Federal Communications Commission and the Canadian version of the FCC, Industry Canada.
With the help of U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, the clerk's office received expedited approval from both sides of the border, and the program should be in place when the Spring warmth of April arrives.