Judges await public's verdict on new jury capabilities

2014-05-14T19:39:00Z 2014-05-14T22:09:21Z Judges await public's verdict on new jury capabilitiesBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | Martin Goldman is like a man planning a wedding next week, unsure of who on the guest list is alive or disappeared without a forwarding address.

Goldman sends hundreds of summons each week to local residents to serve on criminal and civil court juries in his job as Lake County court administrator — often with mixed results.

"Historically, judicial systems people find only 80 percent to 90 percent of those summoned actually appear. The yield is so low, I have to tell those in the qualified jury pool every Monday morning, I'm calling in 10 percent to 15 percent more people than I'll need because there is that unknown factor and some of them wouldn't be here, except to guard against the people who don't show up," he said.

He hopes new court software, making its debut next week, will make jury management a little more predictable and potential jurors' experience a little more friendly and efficient.

"It's very exciting," he said of Jury2014 Plus, software designed by Judicial Systems Inc. of Tyler, Texas, that replaces a 15-year-old antiquated court program with state-of-the-art features.

"Once I find out how many jurors I need, I can find out how many qualified people are available and direct the system to text those people. I leave messages I generate on my smartphone, even if I'm out of the office.

"Nobody else has the texting capability, and that is one of the things that really sold me. We are trying to reach out to a younger demographic, the people using their smartphones for everything.

"We already are finding that in the first batch of summons we've sent out, about 12 percent have signed up for the texting," he said.

His office sent out summons for 200 to appear Monday in the Lake County Government Complex in Crown Point, which houses Lake Circuit and Superior courtrooms.

"We know now there are 194 still available," he said Wednesday. He said the new system lets potential jurors reschedule the week of duty online.

He said there are 400,000 names in the court's database drawn from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Department of Revenue. He said they send postcards to as many as 20,000 a year from that pool with instructions to access the court's website or automatic telephone system to acknowledge they can serve or give a legal reason, such as a physical ailment, why they cannot.

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