July 27, 2020
COVID has led to a transformation in the way our most basic functions are handled, including court proceedings. So far, courts are adapting and continue to provide services using the available technology like video conferencing to meet health standards and social distancing. These technologies mitigate the impact of restrictions on in-person proceedings. Now courts are entering a new phase in which some in-person proceedings are possible but using new and unconventional techniques.
One such innovation is the drive-thru court concept recently developed in Virginia Beach (VA) Circuit Court. Court staff and services are available without the need for people to exit their vehicles. Services include applying for concealed carry permits, marriage licenses and, notary items for pick-up. The move was to keep as many people as possible out of the courthouse while staying open for business.
Another clever way of providing court services is the “parking lot court” in the Ninth Judicial District Court, Tennessee. There, Judge Mike Pemberton is holding proceedings in the parking lot such as agreed-to matters, settlements that require court approval and other matters approved by the Supreme Court.
The Salt Lake City Justice Court developed a mobile courtroom, a recreational vehicle (RV) that allows defendants to keep six feet from a judge and a judicial assistant inside, while a prosecutor appears over laptop video and a defense attorney appears by phone. The RV is from the Salt Lake City Police who offered it to the court, granting an alternative for delivering services while also following proper social distancing practices.
For more information about how courts are addressing the pandemic, see NCSC's main pandemic page.
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For more information, contact Knowledge@ncsc.org or call 800-616-6164.