BENTON — Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan is one of 12 nominees for the G.Thomas Munsterman[more] Award for Jury Innovation.
The Munsterman Award recognizes states, local courts, organizations or individuals that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations and practices.
Milligan, who is serving his first term as circuit clerk, was nominated for his jury notification system. That system replaces a method that required jury panel members to call a recorded message each week to find out if they were needed for jury service.
Milligan’s system notifies jurors by calls to their cell or home phone, an e-mail or text message.
“In Saline County, about 98 percent of all our cases settle instead of going to trial. Some of them settle at the last minute, and under the old system we had no way to notify jurors after they had called the recording number. My system gives me the ability to not waste jurors’ time if a case settles just hours before the trial begins,” Milligan said. “Not only does it save jurors’ time, it also saves the county money.”
Each jury panel has between 40-50 people on it. When jurors come to the courthouse for jury service, they are paid $25 per day even if the case settles before they arrive.
Milligan polls jurors after each term of service ends. Those polls show 99 percent of former jurors like Milligan’s notification system.
Court clerks from as far away as Michigan have called Milligan’s office to ask for details of how the Milligan system works.
“We are particularly impressed with Mr. Milligan’s use of contemporary communications technologies to remind jurors of their upcoming jury service date, which has significantly increased juror appearance rates,” Gregory S. Hurley, NCSC’s Senior Knowledge Management Analyst said.
While Milligan is the first Arkansan ever nominated for this prestigious award, he is not the 2012 winner.
The Michigan Supreme Court is the recipient of the 2012 award.
The Michigan Supreme Court and the judges who participated in the 2009-2010 Michigan jury reform pilot project were involved in a two-year effort to test and examine a variety of in-court techniques designed to improve juror comprehension, performance and satisfaction.
There were 12 nominations from around the country for the Munsterman Award.
“It is an honor to be nominated for this national award,” Milligan said. “The Michigan Supreme Court did some great work and I am glad the court got the Munsterman award. I support anything that advances our right to a trial by an unbiased jury.”
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court reform organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.
In 2008, NCSC created the G.Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation to recognize states, local courts, organizations, or individuals who make significant improvements in jury procedures.
The NCSC headquarters in Williamsburg, Va., houses the Research and Technology Services, Knowledge and Information Services, Association Management, Communications and Publications, and the Institute for Court Management (Education) divisions. It serves as the primary hub and meeting point for all the center's various activities and houses the NCSC's library which contains the largest known collection of court-administration materials
Since then, it has become one of the most prestigious awards in the American judicial system, according to the NCSC.
Munsterman was the founder and former director of NCSCs’ Center for Jury Studies. He retired from NCSC on July 30, 2010, after more than 30 years of working to improve jury service
In 2008, Munsterman received the Jury System Impact Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on the American Jury “in recognition of extraordinary efforts in the improvement and strengthening of the American jury system.”
Munsterman authored and co-authored numerous books and wrote a commissioned paper "Innovations in Jury Trial Procedures" for the American Bar Association and Brookings Institution Symposium on the Future of the Civil Jury System in the U.S. He assisted the Russian government in re-establising trial by jury after the fall of the Soviet Union.