New jury program good for taxpayers

About 4,500 Detroiters were summoned each year to jury service at the 36th District Court --but the court held only a handful of jury trials, wasting citizens' time and taxpayers' money. But that is about to change, under a new program announced June 25 by Judge Michael J. Talbot, special judicial administrator of the 36th District Court.

Effective July 1, Talbot said, the court will institute the "As Needed Jury Program." The impetus, Talbot explained, is the "very large gap between the thousands of people summoned to jury service and the very small number of jury trials--10 to12 per year--that the court actually held."

Talbot said that the 36th District Court will no longer send jury summonses for that court. Instead, jurors will be drawn as needed from Detroiters summoned for jury duty to the Wayne County Circuit Court's Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

"Here's how the program will work: when a judge of the 36th District Court is certain that he or she will have a jury trial, a request will go to the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, which houses the criminal division of the Wayne County Circuit Court," Talbot explained. "When juries have been selected for trial at the circuit court, the circuit court jury services department will notify the district court of the number of Detroit residents who are available for jury service from the circuit court pool. The district court will arrange for potential jurors to have transportation from Frank Murphy to the district court, or jurors can walk the short distance between the two courts. After jury selection at the 36th District Court is completed, the remaining jurors will be dismissed."

The goal, said Talbot, "is to remove an unnecessary burden from hundreds of Detroiters, while at the same time having these citizens be part of the Wayne County jury pool, improving jury diversity in Wayne County."

The program will also save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, Talbot said. "Each person who reports for jury service, even if he or she never sees the inside of a courtroom, must be paid $25 and mileage according to state law," Talbot said. "By ending the unnecessary summons of 4,500 citizens, we save their time and the taxpayer's money."

Summonses have already gone to Detroit citizens for the month of July, Talbot noted. Starting June 28, all jurors summoned to the district court for July 1 through July 30 will be notified via an automated phone service to report to the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

Published: Mon, Jul 1, 2013

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