Faced with a backlog of hearings due to COVID-19 restrictions, the County Courts in Elkhart County, Ind. have implemented a solution from Cisco – Connected Justice. The technology has allowed the court system to get ahead of its work through virtual proceedings.
In addition to expediting the court backlog, citizens no longer need to plan an entire day around a court proceeding as there is no need to wait hours for a 15-minute meeting.
“The litigants like it, and it’s pretty easy to figure out why,” said Elkhart Circuit Court Judge, Michael Christofeno. “If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and you have to take off two or three times in a six-month period to go sit half a day in court … and you run the risk of losing your job … how is that good for any litigant? How are we servicing the public when we’re doing that?”
Elkhart County IT Director Matthew Dietz and Judge Christofeno both cited the increased security in the courtroom. Citizens appear to have more positive attitudes when they attend court hearings remotely, as they don’t have to worry about problems such as child care or transportation anymore. Elkhart County has also cut down on transportation costs. In the past, 30 to 50 offenders would be transported to court every week, but can now attend their hearings in jail.
A major concern with virtual court proceedings involved the ability of attorneys to speak with their clients in confidence. This concern was addressed by a side-room feature that prevents other virtual participants from listening to private conversations.
One of the keys to implementing such a virtual solution is developing a plan for introducing the tech to the staff.
“We really simplified the process, which allowed people to feel comfortable with it, because when they feel comfortable with it, then they’re going to adopt it at a much quicker pace and actually use it to its full extent,” Dietz said.