New Jury Assembly Room Construction Begins Next Week
by: Rod Rice, July 27, 2009 8:07:00 am
"The room itself is going to be really, really state-of-the-art."
That's Harris County District Clerk Loren Jackson. He's only been in office since the last election. From the beginning he wanted to improve the jury duty experience.
"And one of the first things I did was take a look at the plans and set-up a meeting with Public Infrastructure Development and talk to them about the plans and let them know about some of the ideas I had for the new jury assembly room and some of the things I'd like to see."
One of those things was Wi-Fi. Jackson recently had the service added to the current jury assembly rooms and he had it included in the new building too. It will also be wired for television, even though that is not yet part of the plan.
"There's also going to drop down projector screens in each of the jury rooms and there will be the ability to webcast which means somebody could sit here in their office and actually webcast to all four rooms at the same time."
The new jury assembly room will be built in the area in front of the civil courthouse on what is now a one square block surface parking lot. But it will be built underground, so the parking lot becomes green space and potential jurors have access to more parking garages and underground access to all the courts.
Jackson says currently some jurors have to walk from one courthouse to another regardless of the weather or physical limitations.
"We have had incidents in the past were folks have fainted from simply making the walk from the jury room over to the courthouses, so this is a great way for us, running through the tunnel system, for people to avoid the heat, to avoid issues and to accommodate folks better who have disabilities."
Construction will take from 18 to 24 months. The new jury assembly rooms will increase capacity. There's currently space for 750.
"Each of the rooms in the new jury room, all four rooms themselves hold 250, so were going to have a total capacity of a thousand, plus there will be a little bit of overflow in the common area as well."
Easier access to and from courtrooms means that eventually Harris County maybe able to have potential jurors arrive at four different times instead of the current two and therefore take up less of their time.
Loren Jackson says his office has worked to improve the process and the new rooms will make jury duty a better experience.
"We value you, we value your time, jury service doesn't have to be such a drag and I think when folks come down here they will find not only can jury service be exciting, but it can also be rewarding."