HELPING THE PUBLIC ACCESS THE NEW CASTLE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
At 8:15 a.m. jurors begin entering the New Castle County Courthouse. Those who have not been called to jury duty since the courthouse at 500 North King Street opened in October 2002 often approach the information desk in search of assistance. The information desk, staffed by Administrative Office of the Court personnel, is a juror’s initial point of contact with the court system and their friendly assistance lends a positive first note.
At 8:30 a.m., the general public begins navigating its way through the security process. At this hour of the day, plaintiffs, defendants, attorneys, witnesses, and other interested parties are often looking for information that will ensure they arrive at the right place at the right time. Many of them approach the information desk too.
People come and go through the doors of the courthouse in the course of each day, with approximately 2,000 people visiting the courthouse daily. Records show that about one-half of all visitors ask for help at the information desk, which is located just beyond the security stations. The new courthouse was designed to include an easily accessible information desk as a way to improve how the courts serve the public, and it works! The staff is readily accessible, well trained, and responsive to the needs of jurors, attorneys, and the general public.
The Court Roaming Information System (CRIS) is one of the tools available to information desk staff. It was created by the Judicial Information Center to allow the user to search court events scheduled for that day to determine when and where a person is scheduled to appear. The information desk staff also has multiple resource books on hand to help them answer any questions they may be asked, including a directory of state and criminal justice agencies and phone books for all counties.
While the majority of people who come to the courthouse arrive for a scheduled event, other visitors want to use the self help center, pay a fine, obtain court records, or even ask a question unrelated to the courts. According to Mary Ann Hillis, who supervises information desk operations, “Questions routinely begin with ‘How do I’ and ‘Where do I,’ and answering those questions enables the staff to meet the needs of the visitors while providing support services for the New Castle County Courthouse.”
The contributions of the information desk staff extend to the self help center, where they work along with Family Court staff, to provide information to self-represented litigants. No matter what information the visitor needs the information desk staff does its best to help in whatever way it can.