Since the mid-1980’s Harris County residents called for jury service have assembled in a large room in the county attorney’s building. Bailiffs had to lead jury pools down the street to the courthouses and that often meant long lines to get through security. But District Clerk Chris Daniel says all that will change next month with the opening of the new Jury Assembly Building.
“It has not been done before. Some of the technology we’re using we have borrowed from other jurisdictions, but combining it together in one place, this is state-of-the-art.”
Prospective jurors will enter the facility through a sleek glass structure across from the courthouses. They’ll go through security and then proceed to an underground level where they’ll report to one of four stadium-style jury assembly rooms.
“There’s a system where we can pre-sort you, using your jury card, where you literally just hold up your summons. It scans it, and it pre-sorts you into the room you need to be in, and that way we can more quickly sort you, and more quickly get you on your way.”
Daniel says the facility also includes lots of restrooms, a snack bar, and other conveniences.
“If they are a business owner or if they are heavily tied to the internet, they will have free Wi-Fi from each courthouse.”
When it comes time to go to the courtrooms, jury panels will have access through the underground tunnel system. They can also use a tunnel to access a jury parking garage. Daniel says another convenience is that they can now stagger the times that people have to report.
“With a staggered jury call, we can call fewer people, which means that there will be a longer gap between your service times. Right now on average, it’s once every two years, and we’re trying to extend that so that we interfere with your life as little as possible.”
Officials say about 100-thousand people were called for jury service last year in Harris County.