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Hybrid Hearings Improvement Initiative

Hybrid hearings This one-year project will provide state and local courts an opportunity to learn from and improve upon pandemic-era best practices and to create permanent changes to their hearing practices. Grants will be awarded to 10 to 20 jurisdictions to support the cost of technology equipment and installation of the equipment in at least one courtroom in the jurisdiction, integration with existing systems (when appropriate) and technical assistance to support preliminary operation of the equipment. Additionally, NCSC staff will evaluate the utility of the technology and impact on hearing participants.

Grant requirements and expectations

Applications can be submitted by tribal, state or local courts. Federal courts may submit applications, but priority will be given to tribal, state and local courts.

Requirements for grant recipients include:

  • Collect and share in-person, remote, and hybrid hearing court data with NCSC evaluators;
  • Permit NCSC evaluators to observe court hearings remotely;
  • Provide NCSC evaluators with contact information for court participants;
  • Receive technical assistance and support from NCSC staff and other HHII partners; and
  • Provide feedback to NCSC staff on the effectiveness of the hybrid hearing technology equipment.

How to apply

All applications and supporting materials should be submitted electronically by Wednesday, July 13, 2022. Applicants may also be asked to participate in a virtual site visit as part of the application process.

Final pilot site decisions will be made by the advisory board by in July. Site selection will be based on several criteria, including a demonstrated interest in improving hybrid hearing effectiveness, the ability to work collaboratively, an openness to creative and innovative thinking about the future of courts, and the ability to share requested data to evaluate the project’s efforts. The advisory board also seeks to fund a diverse group of jurisdictions from different geographic regions, various court sizes and structures, and courts that focus on various case types.

Apply here.

Resources

Timeline

Application deadline

July 13, 2022

Pilot sites announced

July 22, 2022 (estimated)

Pilot site implementation begins

August 2022

Evaluation period for pilot sites

September-November 2022

Guidelines/best practices report released

January 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

A hybrid court hearing is one in which at least one participant is attending from the courtroom using the room’s technical infrastructure and at least one participant is attending remotely either via videoconferencing platform or phone, using either audio, video or both.

The Hybrid Hearings Improvement Initiative (HHII) is a one-year pilot project that will provide state and local courts an opportunity to learn from and improve upon pandemic-era practices to create permanent changes to their hearing practices.

Grants will be awarded to 10 to 20 jurisdictions to test a particular technology package in at least one courtroom.

Grant funding will be provided to implement a package of technical and operational solutions that will allow NCSC to evaluate the merits of various systems.  This may include funding to support the cost of technology equipment and installation of the equipment in at least one courtroom in the jurisdiction, integration with existing systems (when appropriate), and technical assistance to support the preliminary operation of the equipment and development of hybrid hearing procedures.  For courts with viable hybrid hearing systems in place, NCSC will work with the court to build on the existing platform and identify supplemental needs consistent with the goals of the pilot.

Applications can be submitted by tribal, state or local courts.  Federal and international courts may submit applications, but priority will be given to tribal, state and local courts.

Selected courts will be announced in July 2022 and the pilot will begin operating in August 2022.  Preliminary findings will be announced in December 2022, with a final report to come in spring 2023.

There will be no direct costs to participating courts since the costs associated with purchasing the pilot package (e.g., hardware, software, installation, integration and training) will be covered by the grant. There may be indirect costs associated with staff time and all participating courts will be expected to make a commitment to making themselves available to both NCSC and project technical staff.  There may also be the need for the court to coordinate with local governments regarding equipment installation and associated impacts on infrastructure.

It is our hope that as part of the grant, participating courts will get to keep the hardware and software used in association with the pilot. We will work with selected courts on the front end to ensure a transparent agreement is reached. Following the conclusion of the pilot, ongoing licensing and maintenance would be the responsibility of the court.

The pilot is designed to test multiple platforms and technical solutions across the participating sites to learn which systems and features will meet the needs of courts nationwide.  NCSC will work with the selected courts to determine the most appropriate package for that site.

Yes, courts who wish to test a kiosk or community-based hybrid option are strongly encouraged to apply.

No, it does not, but there is a presentation taking place at the upcoming National Association for Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers Conference in August that will address other remote services, including probation.

The goal of the pilot project is to identify technology and procedural solution(s) that make hybrid hearings possible.  To identify viable solutions, NCSC staff will evaluate the utility of the technology and its impact on hearing participants.  Courts will be asked to:

  • Participate in virtual and/or in-person site visits from project staff;
  • Collect and share in-person, remote and hybrid hearing court data with NCSC evaluators;
  • Coordinate with county facilities, security and IT staff regarding the physical development of the court space and provide access for equipment installation;
  • Permit NCSC evaluators to observe court hearings remotely;
  • Provide NCSC evaluators with contact information for court participants;
  • Receive technical assistance and support from NCSC staff and other HHII partners; and
  • Provide feedback to NCSC staff on the effectiveness of the hybrid hearing technology equipment.

All interested courts are encouraged to apply.  If your court is currently using a solution you think would be helpful to other courts, please indicate that in your application.

The deadline for applications is July 13, 2022.  Selected courts will be announced on or around July 22, 2022.

Applications can be submitted here.

Contact

Additional questions can be sent to Alecia Burke.

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