Virtual Court in a Pandemic

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As the pandemic’s stay-at-home order continued last spring, Lakewood’s Municipal Court faced a backlog of court cases stretching more than two months long.

“They were really piling up on top of themselves,” Municipal Court Administrator Scott Hefty said of the case backlog.

While hearings were occurring daily for those in jail, Municipal Court knew the backlog for other court hearings wasn’t acceptable, and staff searched for a way to still give people their day in court while keeping the public and staff safe.

In partnership with the city’s Information Technology Department, Municipal Court looked at expanding the use of its current video system for arraignments that allows an arrestee to appear in court from jail without having to be in the court room. The city contacted the vendor providing the video arraignments to find out how to expand its use and to determine how to proceed. The answer that came back was better than could have been expected.

“There was no additional cost to the City of Lakewood,” said Wayne Hall, a senior business relations manager in the IT Department. 

The impact of this creative and no-cost solution was significant.

“Since we reopened to the public virtually, we’ve done over 1,500 cases through the virtual process,” Hefty said.

Municipal Court reopened on May 18 for in-person hearings, but learn more about how this innovative approach kept court cases moving forward during the closure in this Lakewood8’s video: