GREENVILLE — Judge Jonathan P. Hein of the Darke County Common Pleas Court was recently appointed to the Ohio “iCOURT” (Improving Court Operations by Using Remote Technology) task force by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.
The primary focus of the task force is to expand courtroom technological capabilities across the state. Among other things, the task force will precisely examine how courts have used technology for appearances and trials, and identify best practices and technology for local courts moving forward. The group is comprised of 25 judges, magistrates, court administrators, court information technology professionals, and attorneys. Supreme Court Justice R. Patrick DeWine will serve as an ex officio member of the task force.
When searching for appointees, the Supreme Court highlighted candidates who have prior experience with courtroom technology. Hein, having operated courtroom technology since video conference tech was installed in Darke County in 2001, is a uniquely qualified fit for the task force. In addition to his work in Darke County, Hein has also given multiple state and national presentations on the topic, and has served as a subject matter expert on two occasions to the U.S. Department of Justice and RAND Corporation.
Darke County’s efficient and fast video conference technology makes the court a model for what the Supreme Court hopes to achieve in other courthouses across Ohio.
“The current pandemic accelerated the implementation of technology in Ohio’s courts. Darke County, in many ways, was well ahead of the curve before the pandemic, and continues to improve,” said Hein. “But every court still has room to improve operations. The Chief Justice expects to move Ohio further forward with technology applications, including remote appearances, electronic filing, online payments and electronic case management. I am excited that my expertise and interest can assist.”
This push for technological advancement comes on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, which quickly highlighted the need for all courtrooms to have video conference capabilities, among other computerized processes. Many courts throughout Ohio had some form of video technology in place prior to the pandemic, but others were unprepared, technology-wise, for the pressing need to host appearances and trials in a “socially distanced,” manner.
The task force hopes to accomplish the goal of meeting COVID-19 distancing standards, while simultaneously updating the Ohio judicial system to meet the ever-growing tech demands of the mid-21st century.