News Release

Council Hears Reports on Use of Chatbots, Pretrial Release Tools; Approves Updated Courthouse Building Standards

Also reviewed best practices for courts to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act and proclaimed November as Court Adoption and Permanency Month
Nov 13, 2020

VIA WEB CONFERENCE—The Judicial Council at its Nov. 13 meeting heard and took action on a number of reports and recommendations, including:

Intelligent Chat for Self-Help Services: The council received a report on chatbots, which help court users ask questions and receive information online about the court process. The report identifies courts already using this technology and presented a comprehensive business case for expanding the use of both live and automated chatbots to augment court self-help services. The report also calls for the creation of best practices for chatbot services, which have proven especially useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch

Pretrial Release Reform: In the final report from a workgroup on pretrial detention and release, the council heard recommendations that include an examination of risk assessment tools that help judicial officers decide under what circumstances to release a person before trial. The recommendations also stress the need to educate courts, justice partners, and the public on the assessment tools, as well as further study on how these tools can identify and mitigate racial bias in pretrial decisions. Watch

Courthouse Design and Building Standards: The council adopted revisions to the standards for trial court facilities in California to adhere to current code provisions and best management practices. The standards reflect substantial lessons learned from completed new courthouse construction projects (29 projects since 2007) and reflect functional and cost-efficient design and construction to maximize the use of public funds, while furthering efficient court operations and ensuring the safety and security of courthouse occupants. Watch

Toolkit for State Courts on Indian Child Welfare Act: The council reviewed a new toolkit of best practices to help state courts comply with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) in cases governed by the act, The toolkit includes potential solutions identified by tribes and tribal advocates, such as ways to improve collaboration and communication among the tribal and state courts. The recommendations also include examples of promising local practices and procedures implemented by courts that improve outcomes for Indian children, families, and tribes. Watch

Court Adoption and Permanency Month: The council proclaimed November “Court Adoption and Permanency Month.” This year marks the 21st year the council has recognized the efforts of California courts and justice partners to provide children and families with fair and understandable judicial proceedings and just permanency outcomes. The council also heard how courts this year have used remote technology to help children achieve permanency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Watch

Today’s meeting was the last for Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, after serving for six years on the council as the chair of the state Senate Judiciary Committee. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the council, thanked the senator for her invaluable perspective and service, recognizing her “lifelong reputation as a trailblazer on equality for women, working to eliminate gender-based barriers, and a champion in advocating for fair and equal access to justice in the courts.”

The complete meeting agenda and council reports are posted to the California Courts Meeting Information Center. An archived webcast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be added to the center as soon as it is available.