State court judges and administrators have largely embraced videoconferencing as a way to conduct hearings remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. To date, 34 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have either mandated or urged their courts to use virtual hearings.
But some judges, as a way to provide services to the public, have gotten creative in ways that don’t involve virtual hearings. They are meeting face to face with litigants – just not indoors.
In Salt Lake City, litigants assigned to meet in Courtroom 6 are directed to a recreational vehicle parked at a curb in front of the Salt Lake City Justice Court. They wait to talk with a judge, who is inside the RV, in what the local newspaper described as “serving up justice food truck style.” More often than not, a prosecutor appears on a laptop and a defense attorney via cell phone.
“The idea was we need to interface with people who need something from us – and that’s defendants and victims – without bringing them into a closed environment where they come in close contact with our staff,” Salt Lake City Justice Court Presiding Judge Clemens Landau told the newspaper. “We’re just flying by the seat of our pants.”
Here’s a story about this in the Deseret News.
In Tennessee, Judge Mike Pemberton in the 9th Judicial District is holding “parking lot court,” outside his office, for litigants who don’t have access to the internet. Judge Pemberton said in a statement announcing this initiative that the Tennessee Supreme Court encourages the use of video conferences, but he lives in a county where there is no internet or cable TV.
“Therefore,” he wrote, “the use of video conferencing has its limits.”
Read Judge Pemberton’s entire statement here.
In North Carolina, Guilford County Chief District Court Judge Teresa Vincent is accommodating people who really want to get married during these difficult times. Judge Vincent ordered that magistrates may perform wedding ceremonies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays by appointment only – and only in the High Point and Greensboro jails.