The Evolution of Tyler Virtual Court
July 13, 2021 by
The Continued Evolution of Virtual Court
We all know the impact that the pandemic had on 2020. For the legal community, it meant courthouse shutdowns across the country and exploring alternative ways the legal system conducted its business. This included examining the role technology played in court proceedings and how it could be used to expand access to justice for citizens and court staff alike.
Virtual Court was one solution that met the needs of courts looking to process cases and avoid backlogs while closures, postponements, and social distancing policies were in place. As we mentioned in our first Virtual Court blog, we initially invited several courts to help us in our year-long process to build our Virtual Court solution before 2020 began. The partnerships with these courts were key to help deliver a solution that was a user-based design from the start.
Since the solution development was in progress when the pandemic began, many courts were able to hit the ground running and implement Virtual Court when the courtroom was closed for in-person hearings. This was the case for several courts in Texas that fell under the Texas Supreme Court’s emergency order to postpone all in-person hearings. Fortunately, those courts didn’t have to halt their proceeding. One of our clients, Alvin, Texas Municipal Court, was able to shift to Virtual Court within 24 hours of the in-person hearing postponement order and kept cases moving forward to eliminate its backlog of 800 cases.
Based on feedback and needs of the courts we work with, we’ve been continuously updating and adapting our Virtual Court solution since our initial launch. Here are some of the major solution changes we’ve implemented:
- Rooms – The initial design only provided a single room for the court hearing to occur. What we learned from courts during the pandemic is that they needed a way for the defendants to meet with a prosecutor, separately from meeting with the judge. So, we amended Virtual Court’s design to include the rooms feature. A court can now customize up 10 rooms and opt to record (or not record) and save any chat messages sent during a defendant session.
- Additional Parties on a Case – A defendant can now bring a defense attorney or, if a juvenile, they can have a parent(s)/legal guardian(s) in a session. Each party receives their own unique ID to join the scheduled hearing.
- Moving Defendants – Enhanced functionality to easily move defendants around to different rooms has also been added.
- Quick Chats – Up to seven standardized quick chat messages that are preset are now available, so the court staff doesn’t have to retype a lot of the same redundant information.
New Features to Come
Even as circumstances continue to change and the impact of the pandemic begins to lessen, courts and citizens now have expectations for convenient access to justice that Virtual Court provides. To ensure Virtual Court can continue to meet the needs of jurisdictions, we’re always listening to and learning from courts and constituents about any updates we can make. Here are some of the new features we are exploring to possibly add to the Virtual Court experience:
- Providing a way for the public to access Virtual Court sessions
- Providing defendants with the ability to electronically sign a document/form presented to them during a Virtual Court hearing
- Implementing functionality to ensure Virtual Court is ADA compliant and conforms to ADA best practices
- Offering defendants the ability to view a schedule of virtual sessions and sign up for a remote appearance online