VIA WEB CONFERENCE—The Judicial Council at its business meeting today approved a report summarizing innovative projects and a proposal for continued investment in technology solutions to improve court services and access for the public.
Funding for Court Modernization
Based on funding requests from the courts, the council allocated funding to support projects related to online access to court records, automated notifications and reminders, live chat on court websites, remote payment options, and other technology projects.
“This modernization funding recognizes that technology for the judicial branch is not only about increasing convenience for the public, it’s about increasing access to justice,” said Judge Kyle Brodie, chair of the council’s Technology Committee.
The 2020 and 2021 state budgets each included $25 million to continue modernizing trial court operations, for a total of $50 million over two fiscal years. In the last six months, the first half of that investment helped support the upgrade of nearly 500 courtrooms around the state, leading to more than 500,000 remote proceedings. In addition, courts sent more than 1.5 million electronic notifications and reminders to litigants about their court obligations and digitized more than 18 million paper documents. Watch
Grant Program Supports Court Innovation
The council received the final report on this 3-year grant program that helped launch 51 projects across 30 courts statewide. Trial and appellate courts experimented with new tools and approaches to improve efficiency and increase access. The innovation projects provided the branch with a head start toward increasing remote services and addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on court users.
The grant program also identified areas where court users need more assistance. For example, as a result of the grant program, the branch is developing a new statewide self-help litigant portal, creating answers to common questions for online chat bots on court websites, and expanding the use of electronic court records and e-filing. Watch
Other items on the Oct. 1 council meeting agenda included:
Addressing Pandemic-Related Backlogs: The council agreed on a process to allocate the $60 million specifically identified in the 2021 budget to help trial courts address backlogs and workload delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Basing the allocations on the most updated clearance data available at the time, the council will continue to collect and evaluate case data to determine progress made by trial courts in addressing their backlogs. Watch
New Form for Eviction Cases: Pursuant to legislation establishing new procedures for bringing unlawful detainer actions based on nonpayment of rent and actions to recover COVID-19 rental debt, the council approved new and revised forms for parties to use in these actions.
Council Committee on Civil Remote Appearance Rules: Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced she has formed an ad hoc committee of judges and court executives to help implement SB 241, newly enacted legislation authorizing the continued use of remote proceedings in civil cases until July 1, 2023. Per the legislation, the council will adopt rules of court to promote statewide consistency on remote appearances, including consideration of the technology and transportation needs of parties and witnesses.
New Council Voting Member: Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye appointed Justice Carin Fujisaki to a voting position on the council and as chair of the council’s Rules Committee. She succeeds Justice Harry E. Hull, Jr., who stepped down from the council and in his role as chair of the committee. The Chief Justice recognized Justice Hull’s “deliberative approach, wise counsel, and calm demeanor” and his “contributions to advancing the council’s mission.”
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.