Automated system lets residents reschedule jury duty
Citizens summoned for jury duty now have a better way to postpone their service that involves less hassle and saves taxpayer money, Durham court officials say.
The county bought an automated jury-selection system last fall for about $98,000 that lets those called for jury service use their phones to reschedule for a more convenient time.
The summons includes a phone number that the person dials to make changes. The new date is confirmed immediately by phone, and a revised summons is mailed.
Kathy Shuart, trial court administrator at the new Durham County Courthouse, said citizen feedback has been positive.
“They can make the change 24/7, and I think that’s made things much more convenient for our citizens,” Shuart said.
In the past, she said, a clerk who handles postponement requests often had 100 or more telephone calls that came in after-hours that had to be returned the next day.
With the new system, people can call at any time, and the system keeps track of the changes, saving staff time and money.
“This new system allows us to communicate with jurors through the system, without expending staff time or the costs of correspondence,” Shuart said. “When we do correspond, the new system will allow us to do so via postcard rather than letter, something we hope to have in place in the first quarter of 2014, which will save postage.”
Shuart said the new system has made the juror-selection process smoother.
“We are able to run our list against the National Change of Address system quarterly, at which time those who have relocated outside Durham County are removed, so we don’t incur the expense of summoning those folks,” she said.
Also, by providing citizens access to the system around the clock, they can find information and change service dates without having to speak with a clerk, a process that often took several days and two or three calls back and forth, she said.
Another possible enhancement on the horizon is letting prospective jurors communicate through the Internet.
“Our jury commission is considering the pros and cons of such an enhancement, and if they find it worthwhile, may commend it to our county commissioners,” Shuart said.
Since last October, the automated system has been used by about 21,800 citizens, and the reviews have been good.
“I think this has made things much more convenient for our citizens,” she said.