SF residents called for jury duty every 2 years

November 26, 2008 9:13:52 PM PST
San Francisco County Superior Court personnel are hoping to make jury duty more pleasurable and efficient for the county's 460,000 potential jurors.

Changes have been planned for the past two years, court spokeswoman Ann Donlan said.

Under improvements to jury service announced this week, San Francisco County residents can expect to be called for jury duty every two years instead of annually.

When they arrive at the Hall of Justice or Civic Center Courthouse, jurors will have access to free wireless Internet service and can watch television in the Civic Center Courthouse.

Jurors also will receive discounts for parking, Donlan said.

The San Francisco County Superior Court was able to reduce the number of jurors it summons weekly after analyzing the number of jurors it needs during a typical week, Donlan said.

Currently 2,600 jurors receive a summons each week per courthouse, down from a high of 3,100 each week per courthouse, Donlan said.

The addition of 14,000 names of potential jurors from the Department of Motor Vehicles and Registrar of Voters has also contributed to lengthening the time when citizens can be expected to be called for jury duty, Donlan said.

Standardized guidelines have been established regarding excuses from jury service, Donlan said.

Court officials also are developing a plan to address jurors who don't appear for jury duty. The number of those who have failed to appear is down to 20.9 percent from 22 percent, Donlan said.

Court officials have also set standards for the number of jurors to call for specific misdemeanor and civil asbestos damage cases, Donlan said.

Judges limit the number of jurors they call in civil asbestos cases to 170 and to 60-80 for misdemeanor cases, Donlan said.

San Francisco County has the highest number of asbestos damage cases in the state possibly because of the county's shipyards but has become very efficient in adjudicating them thanks to a specialized group of attorneys and the e-filing of claims, Donlan said.

Although the majority of those asbestos cases eventually do settle, juries are still selected for what can still be lengthy trials, Donlan said.

"Jury service is an important civic duty and the Court truly appreciates the cooperation from jurors who fulfill this important obligation," said Gordon Park-Li, the court's chief executive officer.

"We understand that getting to jury duty and possibly sitting on a jury can pose significant family and work challenges. We are committed to doing everything we can to make their experiences as rewarding and efficient as possible," Park-Li said.


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