Darke County Court to participate in study

Staff report

DARKE COUNTY — Darke County Common Pleas Court has been selected to participate in a pilot program for remote hearings.

The National Center for State Courts is helping six courts in Ohio learn more about user experiences with remote court hearings and technology access.

Lawyers, litigants, witnesses, and the public will be surveyed about their court experiences, such as in-person experiences, remote court experiences, court website use, or on-line experiences. They will be directed to questions customized to each court that test the efficiency and effectiveness of their particular court service.

“Improving access to the courts has been our goal for many years,” Darke County Common Pleas Court Judge Jonathan P. Hein said. “The Covid problem made this even more urgent. Our court has long been a state-wide leader in using remote access technologies. This research project will help us measure our effectiveness and learn where improvement is necessary.”

The project will update CourTools which currently allows courts to gather information to help evaluate performance.

“After CourTools has been updated by this pilot program, it will be better able to test the effectiveness of court proceedings using audio-video and website technologies,” NCSC researcher Andrea Miller said.

After CourTools is updated, courts in Ohio and across the nation will benefit from the project.

Funded by the Ohio State Bar Foundation, the pilot testing will occur at Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, Fairfield County Juvenile Court, Darke County Court of Common Pleas, Chardon Municipal Court, Allen County Juvenile Court and Highland County Court of Common Pleas. Common Pleas Courts hear a large variety of cases, and that variety will help researchers analyze the effectiveness of remote proceedings, which have greatly increased during the Covid pandemic. Comparing courts in urban and rural areas will also be meaningful.

Pilot testing will end by Spring 2022, when NCSC will analyze the data and submit a report to the Ohio Supreme Court, including recommendations for improving access and fairness.