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Text reminders reduce failure to appear rates and backlogs

September 7, 2022

By Dimarie Alicea-Lozada

At the end of 2020, NCSC reported on text reminders in the context of reducing failure to appear (FTA) rates. The study concluded that any type of reminder would help to reduce FTAs. Recently, we have seen how more courts have been adopting these tools.

Cases lag when proceedings are delayed due to parties, witnesses, and attorneys who fail to appear. NCSC researchers Lindsey Wylie and Rory Monaghan found that text notifications reduce FTAs in metropolitan locations in Kentucky. “If a court sends out a text reminder (or any type of reminder), the cases are more likely to be heard.”

The Ohio Supreme Court and the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services recently announced that grants are available for courts to curtail backlogs by implementing text message reminder systems. “The goal of the program is to reduce administrative time spent on cases, remove systemic and operational barriers that prevent cases from being resolved, and create new methods to improve court case flow, which was slowed due to the pandemic.”

Some courts have used reminder systems for a long time while others just started pilot programs because of the pandemic. Lancaster County, Nebraska recently started a pilot program in criminal and traffic cases. People can sign up to receive reminders in the form of text messages, voicemails, or notifications from an app. They also have the option to stop receiving messages.

Florida courts also started pilot projects in some counties and now have a statewide program that allows defendants, lawyers, or any interested party to sign up for an upcoming court proceeding reminder by text, email, or both. The user specifies the case number for which they want to receive reminders.

NCSC recently presented the webinar Promoting Court Appearance with Procedural Fairness on how procedural fairness strategies can help promote voluntary compliance with court attendance. The panelists discussed how courts can reduce barriers to appearance by sending reminder letters, emails, and texts. The Conference of Chief Justices and Conference of State Court Administrators adopted a resolution In Support of Efforts to Improve Appearance Rates in Criminal and Traffic Courts that encourages courts to implement systems to deliver timely court date reminders to all persons with matters before the courts.

Does your court offer text reminders? Share your experiences with us. For more information, contact or call 800-616-6164. Follow the National Center for State Courts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Vimeo.