Wednesday, January 17, 2007
San Bernardino Courts to Provide Internet Access for Jurors
By J’Amy Pacheco, Staff Writer
San Bernardino County jurors can bring their laptops to the courthouse, and court officials hope that service will encourage jurors to show up when called, Director of Court Administrative Services Sharon Prentiss said Tuesday.
We ve had a very positive response, Prentiss said. We ve had business people tell us it really helped them. Even if they just have an hour or two while people are being checked in, they can be in contact with their office.
The service was added in response to a suggestion made by a blue ribbon committee that sought ways to decrease the no-show rate of potential jurors, Prentiss explained. The county used to have a no-show rate of about 24 percent. Currently, about 14 percent of those called for jury service don t show.
Prentiss credited the courts follow up with scofflaw jurors as having primarily led to the decrease in no-shows, but said added services like wireless Internet access make it easier for jurors to complete their service.
The service debuted in San Bernardino, and is now offered in Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Joshua Tree, Barstow and Victorville as well. Prentiss said the service will eventually be offered in all of the county courthouses except Redlands, which is a dedicated probate court with no jury assembly room.
The cost to implement the service, she added, was only a few thousand dollars.
The service is available only in the jury assembly room, and jurors may not use their computers in the courtroom.
Prentiss said the ability to bring laptops into courthouses has not had a significant impact on security screening, as jurors simply remove the laptops from their bags for inspection prior to entering.
Prentiss said the wireless Internet is just one service being implemented to increase the convenience of jury service. Other proposals under consideration include an increase in juror pay, and offering childcare for jurors.
Those are the big, major issues, she said.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company