Thursday, February 18, 2021

This and That in Court Technology - February 2021



Winter 2021

There is a massive amount of court technology news this month.  We learned about, US Federal Courts response to the Covid-19 pandemic, conference news from the Innovating Justice 2021 and Legalweek 2021 events, California’s CourtStack initiative, Mark Beer’s upcoming talk on AI support for judicial decision making, Seattle and King County’s impact and response to the pandemic caseload, the NACM video podcast on Teleworking, and proposed USA federal government rules on digital format archiving.



As Pandemic Lingers, Courts Lean into Virtual Technology

Via press release on February 19, 2021. 

“As she started a civil jury trial in early October, Judge Marsha J. Pechman looked across her federal courtroom in Seattle, Washington. It was completely empty.

The litigants and their lawyers beamed in via video. So did her law clerks, and the court reporter tasked with transcribing the trial. Most strikingly, the eight jurors deciding the case also were participating by video from their homes.

Since the pandemic first closed many courts, one of the most significant adjustments made by federal courts has involved the use of electronic communications. Under provisions of the CARES Act, a COVID-19 relief law passed last March, federal courts began conducting routine procedural hearings, such as first appearances for criminal defendants, by telephone and video hookups.

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has dragged on, a small number of courts have adapted electronic proceedings to meet more challenging situations. Several courts have conducted virtual bench trials, which do not require a jury. In a few cases, courts holding high-profile hearings have needed to stretch virtual technology to accommodate large numbers of listeners. In perhaps the most ambitious experiment yet, the Western District of Washington recently began holding all-virtual jury trials in civil lawsuits.”

Click here for the rest of the release.

Innovating Justice Forum 2021

Last week I attended online this year's HiiL InnovatingJustice Forum ‘Making people-centered justice work’. 

Highlight videos are available on YouTube and conference reports are posted on their website.

I also want to commend the excellent online production by Ms.Kitty Leering of “DutchBlend”.  She wrote that “The production took place on the online event platform “Hopin” and using the virtual studio “StreamYard”. Due to the snowstorm I could not even join the (safely distanced) team in The Hague.

Congratulations to all.

Legalweek 2021

I think it is important to keep up with what is happening on the lawyer/law services side of the world.  And like many others, this year’s conference was held online.  I found an excellent summary on the “epiq angle” blog at:


California Courts Join Together to Create CourtStack

Court technologists in multiple California Courts have banded together to “to deliver a common standards-based platform (CourtStack) that will extend add-on solutions to all case management systems in an innovative and industry-transformative way."

The project website “defines the problem” they are working to solve.

“The case management system (CMS) and court applications landscape in California is very diverse. It could be considered a microcosm of the challenges that exist nationally when dealing with the vast assortment of case management systems and the add-on applications that are required to support the modern Digital Court. Case-in-point: our current case management environment (both in California and nationally), requires that add-on solutions be tightly coupled with an underlying case management system, creating a significant deployment challenge for best-of-breed systems. Despite considerable efforts across California to build innovative solutions in areas like mobile case access, litigant and justice partner case access, and eFiling, it has proven extremely difficult to deploy these systems in other Courts. An unfortunate dichotomy has resulted: excellent software that has proven very useful to the Courts but requires a software development team, a significant amount of time, and a lot of money to implement. The investment for most Courts is simply too steep.”

Therefore, the solution they are offering is:

“CourtStack is an active initiative that aims to solve this problem by providing a platform and framework for building CMS add-on solutions. The goal of CourtStack is to deliver a common standards-based platform that will extend add-on solutions to all case management systems in an innovative and industry-transformative way. Our CourtStack mission is intentionally broad: “To empower the delivery of digital court services in an innovative and industry transformative way, that is intelligent, efficient, and cost-effective.”

Check out the project website for much more including documentation at

Mark Beer Scheduled to Present on the Increasing Role of AI in support of Judicial Decision Making

NCSC friend, Mark Beer will speak on the above-titled subject matter on March 9, 2021, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM GMT (UK time – 5 hours later thanEST) in an online session hosted by the University of Oxford, Faculty of Law.

The presentation abstract states:

“AI is already being used by lawyers to analyze terabytes of data to find supporting evidence for clients, both in commercial and contentious matters. AI is being used to predict judicial and arbitral outcomes, and even to advise on the best time of day to go before a particular judge. AI is proving better at predicting judicial decisions than lawyers, and at predicting recidivism and breach of court orders than experienced judges. AI can sit for more than 7 hours a day, doesn’t take 8 weeks off for summer and receives no salary or index linked pension.

That must make AI a better basis for judging citizens than humans, especially with the Courts facing such significant backlogs?

But what of mercy and humanity? What of equity and justice? What role do they have, and could AI ever be merciful?

The talk will look at the current use cases for AI in support of judicial decision making, the direction of travel and we will debate the possible future role of AI in dispute resolution.”

Seattle Courts Adjust to the Criminal Justice Problems Caused by the Pandemic

An article by KOMO broadcast news notes the problems and changes caused by civil unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic by the courts.

They write:

“After a summer of protests, there have been complaints at the lack of prosecution and jail for people accused of resisting arrest, failure to disperse and vandalism.

But the reasons behind why they are not in jail are less about politics and more to do with COVID-19 and the case counts because of an increase in violent crime.

“For example, municipal court is not doing any out of custody arraignments," said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, who was once the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington. “Well, you can't start the who criminal process until someone has been arraigned, so we have to fix all parts of it.”

Seattle Municipal Court judges stopped out-of-custody arraignments for social distancing purposes inside courtrooms and the jail on November 23rd.

Arraignments for people charged with DUI, domestic violence and mental health cases continue to be held.

Since that date court records show 525 other out-of-custody cases have not been arraigned.

Every one of those defendants had been booked into jail and released with the promise that will appear at their arraignment.”

There is much more. You can click the following for the full article and the prosecutors’ use of algorithms to decide on case priorities.

Court Administrator’s Discuss Teleworking

NACM ( ) posted an interesting “Court Leader’s Advantage” video podcast this week (February18, 2021) on “Telework: Is There A Secret to Effective Management?

The presentation description says “this video podcast episode discusses the benefits and challenges of telework on court administration. Viewers interested in teleworking, supervision, employee productivity, and cybersecurity, will want to watch or listen to this podcast.”

Co-Host is Alyce Roberts, Special Projects Coordinator for Alaska Court System

The panel of Court Administrators have each had diverse experiences with teleworking within their courts.  Our panel includes:

  • Sam Hamrick, Court Executive Officer with the Superior Court in Riverside, California.
  • Terri March, Court Administrator with the Justice Court in North Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • Debbie Spradley, Trial Court Administrator with the Clackamas County Circuit Court in Oregon City, Oregon.
  • Courtney Whiteside, Director with the Municipal Court in St. Louis, Missouri.

 Techie Note – PDF/A-4 Discussion

Last, for my technically and archival minded friends, there is an interesting blog post on the proposed USA federal government rule from NARA (USA National Archives and Records Administration) on the proposed “FederalRecords Management: Digitizing Permanent Records and Reviewing RecordsSchedules” published on December 1, 2020 (85 FR 77095) rule.

The proposal identifies acceptable PDF technology for permanent records in § 1236.48 File format requirements.  But, the PDF Association notes that PDF/A-4 was not included in the proposed rule and they recommend that it is. 

Click the following link for the full post.



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