The chairman of the Kentucky Supreme Court says the past 14 months have been the toughest in the history of the modern judicial system.
However, as the courts return to full, face-to-face trials, Chief Justice John Minton, Jr. says the judicial system should retain the lessons learned from the pandemic.
COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of electronic filing and remote technology in the court system. In recent remarks to a provisional legislative committee, Chief Justice Minton said that COVID-19 had forced the courts to switch to phone and video trials.
“If the pandemic had struck a decade ago, even five years ago, our ability to work remotely would have been severely limited, but we could hold out and use this technology to our advantage,” Minton said.
The General Assembly approved $ 14.7 million in technology upgrades for the judiciary this year. The majority of that, about $ 10.6 million, will be spent on video conferencing equipment. Minton said not all Kentucky courtrooms have the technology to remotely conduct indictments and other hearings.
Another $ 2 million will also be used to create an online portal for litigants or individuals who do not hire a lawyer to defend themselves. Minton said the portal’s goal is to enable self-represented litigants to interact with the court, get assistance, and possibly create and file court documents.
Paying legal fees, fines, and fees will be similar to visiting the ATM in parts of Kentucky through next year. The state will spend $ 1 million on a pilot project that will install self-service kiosks in select courthouses by January. If the pilot is successful, Minton said additional kiosks could be set up in commercial locations such as grocery stores or pharmacies. Similar kiosks are already being used in neighboring Virginia to offer important court services outside of office hours.
The remaining $ 1.1 million will be invested in the electronic archiving system. One improvement will be the purchase of editing software to protect personal data in electronic court files.