Hybrid Hearings Improvement Initiative to help courts

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) has launched the Hybrid Hearings Improvement Initiative to help identify best practices. NCSC is excited to kick off the initiative to develop guidelines and best practices that courts can use to effectively implement hybrid hearings into everyday practices where some court participants are in person and others are remote. Up to 20 participating jurisdictions will receive grants to fund the cost of technology and technical assistance during the one-year pilot project.

“Research by NCSC has shown the tremendous benefits of permitting remote participation in court hearings. However, difficulties remain when it comes to integrating hybrid participation in those hearings. This important project seeks to provide real solutions to enable the courts of the future,” said NCSC President Mary McQueen.

NCSC recently hosted a focus group of court representatives, industry partners and NCSC staff to discuss specific problems that courts are encountering. The group brainstormed potential solutions that will be implemented and tested across the country as part of the hybrid hearings initiative.

Participating jurisdictions will collect and share hearing data from all modes (in-person, remote and hybrid), permit remote observation of court hearings and provide feedback on the effectiveness of hybrid hearing technology equipment. After an evaluation period, NCSC will release preliminary best practices and guidelines during December’s eCourts conference in Las Vegas.

Grant applications will be evaluated on the court’s demonstrated interest in improving hybrid hearing effectiveness, the ability to work collaboratively, an openness to creative and innovative thinking about the future of courts, and the ability to share data to evaluate the project’s efforts. NCSC is prioritizing applications from a diverse set of courts, including large/small, urban/rural, and differing case types.

This initiative is an extension of NCSC’s work on remote and hybrid hearings and will more closely examine the challenges and successes of hybrid hearings while also providing a clear path forward for courts across the country.

“NCSC and the state courts were at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in keeping the virtual doors of justice open. Now, as we consider the way to continue to provide user-centric access to justice options, it is important that ensure that courts have tools at their disposal to give users options in participation--in-person or remotely,” said David Slayton, NCSC’s vice president of Court Consulting Services. “The pilot jurisdictions working with us will help us get there and set a path for increased access to justice and more efficient court administration for decades to come.”

NCSC developed support for this project from CISCO, Logitech, televic, and Zoom. In addition to these technology providers, other industry partners participated in this week’s focus group and will be active participants in the technology solutions that are implemented in the coming months.

Applications can be submitted by tribal, state or local courts. Federal courts may submit applications, but priority will be given to tribal, state and local courts. Applications are due Wednesday, July 13. Applicants may also be asked to participate in a virtual site visit as part of the application process.  An advisory board will review the applications and pilot site selections are expected before the end of July.

Requirements for grant recipients include:

• Collect and share in-person, remote, and hybrid hearing court data with NCSC evaluators.

• Permit NCSC evaluators to observe court hearings remotely.

• Provide NCSC evaluators with contact information for court participants.

• Receive technical assistance and support from NCSC staff and other HHII partners.

• Provide feedback to NCSC staff on the effectiveness of the hybrid hearing technology equipment.

For additional information or to apply, visit ncsc.org/hybridhearings.  

An informational webinar will be offered on Thursday, June 23, at 2 p.m. to learn more about the project and application process. To register for the webinar, visit www.ncsc.org and click on “webinars.”


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