A Peer-Tested Approach to Virtual Court

July 18, 2022 by Marissa Harrison

A Peer-Tested Approach to Virtual Court

From the personal to the professional, being the first to try something new can be anxiety provoking. Prior to the pandemic, virtual court technology was one such new thing causing apprehension for many courts, in large part due to a common belief the gravitas of the courtroom would be difficult to replicate online. But as COVID-19 struck and courthouses across the nation closed, many jurisdictions turned to videoconferencing solutions — not only testing the waters for their peers, but also paving the way for a much smoother virtual court experience for courts to follow.

The experience these courts gained by experimenting with videoconferencing throughout the pandemic directly shaped today’s robust virtual court solutions, now allowing the technology to mirror the fuller court experience. But equally important, are the lessons and insights these pioneering courts learned about how to successfully approach virtual court technology. Learn how the key lessons they learned can be applied in your court.

  1. Make it mobile-friendly.

    To ensure your virtual court technology is an equitable solution, make sure it’s accessible on virtually any device. With many defendants lacking a reliable broadband connection at home, smartphones are often relied on for internet access. Even those who do have access to a desktop or laptop with reliable internet frequently choose to join a virtual hearing on a mobile device when and where it’s more convenient for them.

  2. Prepare for a gap in technology literacy.

    While your defendants won’t need specialized software to participate in a virtual hearing, some might need a little guidance with basic technology requirements. Providing simple video tutorials or guides about how to do things like turning on the audio and camera can make a huge difference in adoption.

  3. Focus on integrations.

    Part of creating that physical courtroom feeling in a digital setting involves making it efficient and seamless for both defendants and staff. To accomplish this, virtual court solutions should connect with your existing systems, including case management and payment options. For example, if a judgement document needs to be shared during a hearing, being able to pull it up directly within the virtual court platform eliminates duplicate work. And, consider being able to include a payment option in the resolution process — offering a quick, secure option for defendants, while helping to prevent missed payments for courts in the process!

  4. In-house technology needs to be up to date.

    To ensure videoconferencing quality is smooth and without interruption, it’s important your court has sufficient bandwidth and current hardware, including quality webcams and HDMI connections.

  5. Supporting judges = supporting defendants.

    Prioritize the training of judges on the virtual court technology and processes. When judges are on board and comfortable with the virtual court environment, they can help navigate the proceedings for all those involved, spreading their confidence to defendants and staff.

The virtual court technology available today is completely different than it was just two years ago. Not only is it more robust, but it has also been tested and molded by your peers’ real-life experiences, transforming it from a videoconferencing technology that helped courts survive the pandemic, to a virtual court solution that can improve efficiency and increase access to justice.

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