Navigating the Road to Case Resolution

July 28, 2022 by Jolie Schmidt

Navigating the Road to Case Resolution

With an ever-growing number of cases vying for court resources, the longer cases remain open, the more effort they take to close. Therefore, court leaders around the country are turning to technology to help lighten their day-to-day court responsibilities. Read on to learn how court leaders can embrace technology to improve case resolution in their court system.

Transitioning to Paperless

Transitioning to a paperless environment isn’t as daunting as it may initially seem. Sonya Cates, Municipal Court administrator in Alvin, Texas, stated, “Going paperless wasn’t as challenging as I had originally thought. There is a misconception that going paperless is difficult, but that wasn’t the case at all.”

Cates was able to transition the court to a paperless environment by doing it in stages, making sure to set goals for what they were looking to achieve and keeping everyone on the staff involved. Cates made it a point to mention that having their IT manager involved every step of the way was a big contributor to their success.

Due to their move to virtual court technology Cates’ court was able to eliminate a backlog of 800 cases and increase compliance by 60%.

Reducing Failure-to-Appears

It’s common for some defendants to miss their court dates for a variety of reasons. Many defendants don’t have access to the resources allowing them to attend their court date, get legal guidance, or pay required fines.

Tiffany Totah, Municipal Court administrator in Victoria, Texas, is looking to expand her courts open access to court.

“We used to hold our outreach dockets virtually, but over time realized that some people can’t attend those meetings virtually,” Totah said. “We decided to bring the court to where the people are, holding forums in central and safe locations for people in the community to attend, while still offering virtual options.”

Adapting to the community’s needs has allowed the court to close more cases from start to finish.

Adapting to Virtual Court Rooms

At the start of the pandemic, many courts were negatively impacted. Jessica Ancira, director of Municipal Court Services in Seabrook, Texas, shared that when the pandemic hit, they didn’t have an efficient system in place to carry out cases.

“The judge was calling people one by one and working to get their cases resolved over the phone.” Ancira said.

When Seabrook’s court system began adapting to virtual courtrooms, they were able to handle court proceedings virtually and eliminate the rise of case backlog. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, Seabrook’s court system has adopted a hybrid system, benefiting both the courts and the constituents.

“In the past, about 50% of our docket wouldn’t show up for their court date, and because of that, we would have to issue quite a few warrants.” Ancira said.

After implementing virtual court technology, Seabrook’s court was able to offer more options. The hybrid system now provides more pathways for constituents to resolve their case. The system has increased the number of hearings conducted through virtual courtrooms, reduced failure-to-appears and improved case resolution.

Increasing Communication With Constituents

Some legislatures are now placing reforms that require multiple defendant notifications. This means a defendant must be notified at least three times before their hearing. Danielle Trujillo, Municipal Court administrator in Littleton, Colorado, faced these reforms head-on.

“When beginning to utilize court technology, one of the biggest factors for us was being able to notify constituents automatically, at any time, “Trujillo said.

Through these notifications, Trujillo saw they were better able to communicate with defendants. Defendants now have the information, resources, and different pathways to resolve their cases online or through in-person kiosks set up in the courthouse. These options are better able to meet the specific needs of the constituents, allowing them to get their cases resolved faster.

Trujillo explained she used to have 100 people walk into her building every day trying to get their cases resolved, but now, with the technology in place, she has only 20 walk-ins a day. Only five of those walk-ins actually need to see the judge, while the rest can handle their case at the counter.

Trujillo was able to establish different methodologies and pathways for constituents to choose how they would like to resolve their case. This increases her ability to resolve more cases and meet the varying needs of constituents.

Expanding Access to Justice

By implementing modern technology solutions, your court can not only streamline the case resolution process for staff but – just as importantly – also improve the experience for the constituents you serve: By expanding, overall access to justice and enhancing communication, courts can reduce failure-to-appears and provide defendants with more pathways for case resolution that better meet their needs.

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