Friday, May 29, 2009
Paging all jurors
By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily Staff Writer
Thursday marked the first time that Jeffrey Laino had ever served on jury duty, and he didn't seem to mind a bit.
Laino, 41, of Shelby Township, was among the first group of circuit court jurors to receive pagers that allow them to roam downtown Mount Clemens rather than enduring a boring, daylong stay in a crowded jury room at the county courthouse.
"I think it's pretty cool," Laino said of the new pager program. Laino said he occasionally takes in the Mount Clemens night life and he would definitely spend some time out in the streets rather than in the jury room.
"Heck yeah. For sure," he said. "This is a very cool town."
That's music to the ears of the Mount Clemens business community, which supported the program so enthusiastically that they collected more than
$15,000 to get the system up and running.
The idea was first proposed two years ago by county Clerk Carmella Sabaugh, who modeled the program after the pagers distributed by busy restaurants to patrons waiting for a table.
Jurors are free to enjoy the shops and restaurants and riverfront while waiting for their pager to go off. Arthur Mullen, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority, has said he believes jurors will get "a flavor of the city."
As the first day of the program unfolded Thursday, overseeing the distribution of the pagers was Sabaugh, Mullen, Gabe Anton and U.S. Rep. Sander Levin.
Anton rallied support in the business community when the startup costs, nearly $30,000, proved higher than the amount approved by the Board of Commissioners.
Levin stepped in when it was discovered that the pager system would require the installation of a large antenna atop the old County Building. That antenna required the approval of the Federal Communications Commission and the Canadian version of the FCC. Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County, smoothed the way for those approvals.
Macomb Daily staff photo by David N. Posavetz
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin points Thursday to the antenna atop the roof of the old County Building in downtown Mount Clemens. The antenna makes possible the new juror pager program. Joining Levin for the program kickoff are, from left, Arthur Mullen of the Mount Clemens Downtown Development Authority, Levin, county Clerk Carmella Sabaugh and businessman Gabe Anton.
Sabaugh said the pager process will make the jury duty experience more relaxing, producing juries that are in a better frame of mind, and reducing the number of those who request to be excused.
Under the new system, the 225 to 250 potential jurors who report for duty each week will carry a pager with them and will have 10 minutes to report back to the courthouse when the device buzzes.
Though some circuit judges expressed reservations about the program when it was proposed in 2007, Chief Judge Richard Caretti was part of Thursday's launch, talking to the jurors about the court process and about the new pager system.
More than 18,000 potential jurors report for duty each year at the circuit court but the annual operating cost for the program is pegged at just $2,182.