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A Look Ahead – Post Pandemic Innovations For Efficient Use of Virtual and Physical Courts

On Friday, February 25, 2022, the Caribbean Anti-Crime Program (CAC), funded by INL, conducted its 20th Judicial Keep-in-Touch (KIT) program on post-pandemic innovations for the efficient use of virtual and physical court spaces. The program, hosted by the National Center for State Courts, implementer of CAC, focused on solutions and blended approaches to court services for increasing access to justice. Approximately 133 judges, magistrates and court staff attended the KIT session from 15 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Barbados, The Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad &Tobago, Virgin Islands Attendees included Chief Justices and judges from the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Zabrina Dempson, Esq., of the Superior Court of DC, Allison McKenzie and David Sayles of NCSC, and members of the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago presented of their experiences with hybrid approaches to providing justice. Ms. Dempson, Esq., provided an overview of the Superior Court's efforts in institutionalizing programs and processes established during the pandemic. Ms. McKenzie and Mr. Sayles discussed the relationship between operations and space and how a building environment can enhance public access to justice. Finally, the Judiciary of Trinidad & Tobago demonstrated the use of technology and physical space to showcase their upcoming post-COVID Jury Court.

The theme of the KIT – reimagining courts in a post pandemic era, highlighted best practices in remote proceedings, customer services and webinars; expanded use of digital documents; online dispute resolution; online scheduling; and remote working and team staffing models as operational changes impacting court spaces. This shift to virtual services has created new opportunities for cost savings and greater efficiency. Mr. Sayles and Ms. McKenzie also discussed case types and events that can continue to be conducted virtually in a post-pandemic era, such as arraignments, hearings, and pleads. Regarding physical spaces, the speakers provided examples of hybrid courtrooms with integrated technology, trauma-informed designs, resource centers with self-represented litigants, expanded access to court services, and multi-purpose areas that are customer-oriented and comfortable. Overall, the KIT emphasized the importance of assessing the needs of the community and utilization of available physical and virtual resources to properly address public access and convenience for all court users.

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