Recalibrating Court Proceedings for a Remote World
“Scaling the technology is difficult,” says Scott U. Schlegel, a Louisiana judge who chairs the state’s Supreme Court Technology Commission, as well as the Louisiana District Judges Association Technology Committee.
“You have to ensure that folks have the right bandwidth at home. Presenting to the court virtually can sometimes be awkward for attorneys,” he says.
“There’s a lot to be said for walking a physical document up to the witness and being able to make eye contact with everyone in the courtroom. If you do not practice virtual advocacy and learn how to re-create the courtroom experience to the best of your ability, a number of these important nuances can be lost.”
Dallas County rolled out a mix of video endpoints, with different units going to different settings. For remote areas, the county installed the Cisco IP Phone 8865, which is used by workers in juvenile justice and adult probation settings. In jails, Cisco Webex DX80 units were installed, and about 12 Cisco Webex Room 55 units were placed in larger areas.
In her own role, Davis has seen considerable productivity improvements due to remote work. Those benefits will be too great for judicial systems to ignore, even after the end of the current crisis, she predicts.
“I think this is the new normal,” she adds.
‘A Mad Dash’ to Get Technology for Courts
While rapid deployment of the new system was a challenge for Dallas County, the coronavirus crisis forced many jurisdictions to build and launch judicial video environments simultaneously. The Connecticut Judicial Branch dramatically expanded remote access to courts in May, commencing with case status and pretrial conferences being conducted via Microsoft Teams.