Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, July 12, 2002


Page 3


New Jury Assembly Room to Set Standard for Future Endeavors—Officials


By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer


The new state-of-the-art Santa Monica courthouse jury assembly room filled with high-tech conveniences and vibrant colors will make serving on jury duty more enjoyable and set a standard for future court improvement projects, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Los Angeles Superior Court officials said yesterday at the room’s dedication.

Filled with plush light blue couches that wind their way around the room and comfy orange chairs complete with their own black edged wooden side tables, the assembly area is a softer departure from the traditionally rigid convening rooms where jurors are forced to sit out their day.

An outdoor patio also gives jurors an opportunity to catch some sun and enjoy the ocean view rather than having to endure television reruns.

“Just look at that view,” Bascue urged the audience at the dedication, motioning to the palm trees lining the waterfront.

Court officials called the new room the Superior Court’s most modern and high-tech assembly area.

“It looks too good for a government building, but nothing is too good for a government building,” Yaroslavsky said of the assembly room that is somewhat reminiscent of a lounge straight out of an Austin Powers movie.

Jurors reporting to duty at the Santa Monica courthouse will also be able to telecommute to their offices by using one of the 17 rust-colored carrels to connect to the Internet to fulfill their workplace demands while waiting to get called.

A coin-operated copy and fax machine is also available to workers who can’t afford to skip a beat from their job.

“This is a 21st century jury assembly room for 21st century jurors,” Yaroslavsky said.

Jurors will also be provided a token to use one of the lockers to stow their belongings for the day rather than having to haul everything around.

And for those jurors wanting to take the opportunity to relax while waiting to get called, there are separate television and reading rooms with their own brightly colored chairs. And a magazine rack is filled to the brim with all different kinds of selections.

“We believe we have the crown jewel of juror assembly rooms in the state of California,” West District Supervising Judge Alan Haber said.

Jurors will begin reporting to the new assembly room Monday.

Nearly 20,000 jurors will make their way through the Santa Monica courthouse over the next year, court officials said.

“Most jury rooms look like bus waiting stations,” Court of Appeal Presiding Justice Candice Cooper of this district’s Div. 8 said. “This looks like a hotel lobby.”

Cooper, who originated the idea four years ago when she was supervising judge of the West District, said she was pleased with the project because it raises the bar for other courthouses and other improvement projects.

“What’s exciting is it sets a standard,” she said.

With a price tag of a nearly $2 million to turn what served as the building’s cafeteria for the past four decades, Yaroslavsky said the investment will be well worth the return.

“We are going to get a lot more than $2 million out of this room,” he said.

The project came together with $1.65 million from the county’s Criminal Justice Construction Fund and $300,000 from the Superior Court’s Trial Court Operations Fund, which was used to purchase furnishings and provide for non-construction costs, Yaroslavsky spokesman Joel Bellman said.

But the supervisor warned that opening the doors of the Santa Monica assembly room doesn’t mean the county will be ignoring other courthouses in less high-profile areas.

“We can’t forget about the older courthouses that need to be updated,” Yaroslavsky said.

Officials also took the opportunity to remind people how important jury service is and the need for the court system to make jurors as comfortable and excited about the process as possible.

The impact a person has when they serve on a jury of 12 is more powerful than the power to vote when your vote is just one of thousands, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Connor, a strong advocate of jury reform, said.

“Nowhere else do you see such a collection of people,” she said.

A new county ordinance requiring any company which contracts with the county pay for at least five days of actual jury service a year for each of its employees goes into effect today.

Certain contracts, including those that would be superseded by labor agreements, involved contractors that did less than $50,000 a year in county business, or involved businesses of fewer than 10 employees or less than $500,000 in annual gross revenues are exempted. After adopting the ordinance in February, the board voted last month to grant exemptions for contractors if there is a finding of “special circumstances.”


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company