On-Site Video Legal Services: Innovations in Lawrence Township Small Claims Court

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Indiana Court Times

Three rooms with videoconferencing tools dedicated to free legal services are available directly off of Judge Kimberly Bacon’s courtroom.

Virtual courtroom

The Technology Working Group envisioned enabling remote appearance by video during the first meeting on November 4, 2019. Judge Bacon offered to pilot a virtual courtroom—quite a novel concept in the pre-pandemic era.

Lawrence Township has several meeting rooms, stemming off of the courtroom, where opposing parties can discuss a settlement of their dispute. To accommodate one of the parties appearing by video, these meeting rooms were equipped with videoconference equipment, allowing a party on site to meet with an off-site party. This ensures that the parties can still confer and perhaps settle their case, even if one party is remote.

Even though the pandemic caused all the court’s hearings to be virtual, participants sometimes arrive for their hearing in person, either unaware that the courtroom is closed to maintain social distancing or because they are unable to connect by video from home. Many in the community do not have access to reliable broadband and may have limited minutes to use on their phone. However, the participants can attend the hearing by video from the court’s own meeting room, with socially-distanced help from court staff.