Face-to-Face Court Interactions

September 03, 2020 by Sandy Peters

Face-to-Face Court Interactions

Studies show nonverbal expression makes up 60-70% of effective communication. Intuitively, we know face-to-face interactions are always going to be best. How does this reality fit within our current context of video meetings and virtual conversations? While technology certainly can’t replace all nonverbal cues essential to meaningful conversation, it can help us bridge the gap.

Many of us have been using online meeting tools for years. These tools support the use of video to facilitate face-to-face meetings between two or more parties online. Using this technology allows us to benefit from many of the important nonverbal clues in our virtual meetings. As a bonus, the tools provide a more convenient meeting method.

In an accelerated environment of virtual meetings, several questions for courts arise. Can we use virtual meeting tools for virtual hearings? Do virtual hearings have a place in our court system once the COVID-19 pandemic ends? In our traditional practices, do defendants fail to appear in court because they are intimidated by the courthouse? Are in-person hearings simply too inconvenient when we consider taking time off work, finding childcare, traveling to the court, finding parking, and waiting to appear and pay? Given these considerations, it seems providing virtual hearings is an idea whose time has come.

To ensure tools for virtual hearings provide courts with adequate functionality, Tyler Technologies invited several courts to help us in a year-long process of building Tyler Virtual Court. Specifically designed to handle court processes, this tool includes non-negotiable features as identified by the courts themselves. Such features include:

  • Online sign-up for defendants for virtual hearings
  • Unique, secure links that identify each defendant in the virtual waiting room
  • Email or text reminders
  • Automatic population of basic information at login, including what to expect and courtroom rules
  • Easy waiting room management including the ability to route defendants through multiple meetings
  • Secure chat feature for private verification
  • Automatic case information updates that allow a defendant to confirm decisions
  • Secure two-way document-sharing and, coming soon, digital signatures
  • Online case resolution tool for secure payment

While some states offered free tools to help courts facilitate virtual hearings, solutions designed for and by court professionals will carry a jurisdiction through the pandemic’s complexities and beyond. The ability to completely resolve cases within minutes online means court staff and defendants alike remain safe while the justice process happens efficiently and securely.

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