NCSC International meets with court officials in other countries to gauge their needs

The coronavirus hasn’t ravaged Central America and the Caribbean as much as it has the United States, Europe and China, but it is being taken seriously by court officials in those regions and others who are learning how to use technology to keep the courts operating in case their situations worsen.

That was one message from an NCSC videoconference attended last week by court officials and judicial educators from Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. NCSC International Division Vice President Jeff Apperson, who convened the meeting, told the attendees that NCSC staffers are preparing a report of “best practices” from courts throughout the world, and he intends to share it with them. Apperson is meeting remotely this week with officials from South Africa, Singapore and Pakistan.

He wants to learn how courts in different countries are trying to get through these difficult times, and he plans for NCSC to lay the groundwork for future collaboration.

“I want to see how we can help each other during these difficult times,” Apperson said.

Of the countries represented at last week’s meeting, the Dominican Republic has the largest number of positive coronavirus cases (about 5,000) and deaths (235), followed by Panama, with about the same number of positive cases and 136 deaths. To compare that with the United States, those numbers are similar to Mississippi.

The remote meeting was the first with officials from Central America and the Caribbean, and they said they hope it’s the first of many.

One silver lining from this pandemic is the opportunity it will offer to collaborate with others, meeting attendees said. For example, Dariel Suarez Adames, director of the Dominican Republic’s National School for the Judiciary, said he recently participated in a webinar with a judicial school in Puerto Rico that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

Others agreed that increased collaboration may lead to increased efficiencies in how courts operate and how court employees are trained, and there may be more positives that are a byproduct of this pandemic.

“We’re excited to see the benefits that come from this collaboration,” Apperson said.