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Updated Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 3 PM EST
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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 03/13/13
JUDICIAL JUNCTIONS. Above, Judge Denis LeDuc of the 42-1 District Court uses a two-way interactive video system to speak with Deputy William Ash at the Macomb County Jail. Courts in Macomb County are expanding on video arraignment technology so they can perform judicial procedures via video across the state.
(Observer photo by Chris Gray)
County teams with state
to expand video technology
by CHRIS GRAYFewer defendants will be required to leave secured facilities for court proceedings thanks to upgraded video technology.
Observer Staff Writer
Macomb County is teaming up with the state to expand the county's video arraignment systems beyond county borders as a way of making judicial processing more efficient.
The county currently uses two-way interactive video systems to expedite judicial procedures like arraignments with defendants held in lockups, county jails or prison facilities.
The expansion will allow for court proceedings to take place statewide, thereby eliminating the need to transport defendants to and from their locations across Michigan.
"The expansion of this technology will greatly improve the way our Macomb County courts will be able to interact with other court systems throughout the state," said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel in a written statement.
The 42-1 District Court in Romeo was the second court in the entire state to receive video arraignment technology as part of Michigan's pilot program, with a court in Genesee County being the first.
Judge Denis LeDuc said around 12 years ago the technology was installed in the Romeo building, and since then the court has used the system for procedures like arraignments or the first hearing in criminal cases.
"We realized how successful it was and made it permanent," LeDuc said.
LeDuc said the video equipment doesn't have an effect on the court's budget, but is glad to take part in it since it reduces the need to transport defendants to the northern part of the county from Macomb County Jail.
"Transport is expensive, you need a minimum of two guards," he said. "Ultimately we all want to protect the taxpayers of the county."
No timeline has been given for when the improvements will be up and running, though LeDuc said he understood it would take a year.
Funding for the expansions came from state sources. The State Court Administrative Office, the 16th Judicial Circuit, Macomb County Probate courts, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office and the county's Information Technology Department are working together to bring the technology forward.
The first phase, launched in late 2012, installed three systems in circuit and probate courts. The second phase, which began on Feb. 13, will expand the services to other law enforcement agencies and four district courts, including Romeo.
"We wanted to be right up front because it's progressive," LeDuc said. "I'm a big supporter of reciprocity, of making efficient use of our facilities."
Aside from the sheriff's office, police departments taking part include Utica and the townships of Clinton, Chesterfield and Shelby.
The final phase will connect any remaining courts and agencies in the county.
LeDuc said the expansion will allow him to take circuit court hearings while remaining in Romeo to handle his own docket and matters such as arrest warrants.
"I think it's an excellent idea, let's all help each other out without leaving our districts to handle cases," he said.
County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said the technology will hopefully reduce on some of the trips the sheriff's department has to make as well as improving security at court buildings.
As an example of the savings, he said if there was an individual in Midland County Jail that had a circuit court bench warrant in Macomb County, they could put that individual in front of a Macomb County judge for the arraignment using the technology.
"It would save us from sending two deputies to Midland," he said.
He added, though, that transportation of defendants will still take place for certain proceedings, so the savings aren't as great when compared to using video for all proceedings.