Used increasingly in legal proceedings, video conferencing is saving courts time and money — a lot of money.
According to a press release from Michigan Supreme Court Justice David F. Viviano, the technology helped the Michigan Department of Corrections cache nearly $5 million in the past two years alone.
MDOC’s virtual courtroom project began in 2010 when 17 courts piloted the use of video conferencing technology to conduct remote proceedings with prisoners. The initiative has since grown to include 417 Michigan courts and approximately 30 percent of the system’s requested court proceedings.
Justice Viviano calls the program a “win-win” because it cuts both inmate transportation costs and associated security risks.
But those are hardly the technology’s only benefits.
StateTech reports that in Florida, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court completely revamped its legal interpreter program using video conferencing:
The court’s Cisco Systems TelePresence equipment helps Florida save $200,000 in interpreter costs for the Circuit Court’s 70 courtrooms, says Matt Benefiel, trial court administrator. Eight interpreters cover the main courtrooms in Orange and Osceola counties, plus five buildings in the outlying areas of the court’s region. Instead of sending interpreters to those outlying areas, the court conducts video conferencing sessions to translate Spanish, Creole, Russian and other languages.
Benefiel says the program has generated so much interest that the Office of the State Courts Administrator has added a regional pilot interpreter program that includes seven of Florida’s 20 judicial circuit courts.
Outside the courtroom, video conferencing technology is connecting judges with law enforcement at a time when speed is crucial: during the search warrant approval process.
StateTech describes the San Antonio Municipal Court’s success in Texas:
Typically, search warrants require face-to-face meetings with judges so officers can be sworn in and obtain warrants. "If you need a warrant signed at 2 a.m. and there isn't a judge at court, you might have to go to the judge's house," says Judge John W. Bull of the San Antonio Municipal Court, who added that the process could take several hours and slow an investigation.
Now, San Antonio detectives can communicate via mobile video conferencing with judges to obtain search warrants from their squad cars or anywhere else they have Internet access.
Overall, video conferencing technology is providing the justice system with an increased level of connectivity that it can’t afford to do without.