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Berrien County Court inefficiencies addressed

Published 7:47pm Thursday, April 5, 2012

ST. JOSEPH — The Michigan State Court Administrative Office has recommended a number of ways the Berrien County Trial Court system can improve its efficiency.

Chief Judge Al Butzbaugh told Berrien County commissioners Thursday that officials with the court administrative office evaluated the court system recently and will meet with county court officials later this month to discuss the recommendations.

Many of the suggestions involve the jury selection process.

The office recommended the court system have one day a week for jury selection rather than spreading the selections throughout the week, Butzbaugh said.

Another recommendation is to institute a “hard plea cutoff,” meaning there would be a deadline for a defendant submitting a guilty plea. The state court administrative office believes eight days before the trial is appropriate.

“Counties around the state and country do this,” Butzbaugh said.

Currently, the plea cutoff is the day before the trial, he said

The current system often wastes jurors’ time and is inefficient, Butzbaugh said.

The administrative office also pointed to the inefficiency of paying jurors in cash.

“Sometimes, there’s a line of 40 people to get paid,” Butzbaugh said. “There’s got to be a way to do that by check.”

Currently, the county clerk’s office is responsible for the jury system, but the court administrative office recommends the court system take over handling the jury. Butzbaugh said he is confident the court system could implement most of the changes, which will bring increased efficiency and convenience for the jurors.

“Nobody wants to be called for jury duty,” he said.

“It’s an intrusion on their life. We’re trying to reduce that intrusion as much as possible. That’s why we’re trying to make it more efficient.”

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