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Only a few years ago, the idea of justice being carried out in a virtual environment was reserved for special cases or circumstances. It had been discussed as a serious alternative to daily hearings being held in the courtroom and while it demonstrated merit, this was too drastic of a change. 

While navigating our way through COVID-19, courts were forced to dramatically change their well-versed practices to meet the ever-changing landscape. The courtroom has evolved from a pure physical domain to a hybrid of in-person and remote parties. Having an accessible, secure, and single source of truth, available through an integrated technology platform has never been more essential. As technical issues were solved and courtroom participants gained comfort with their new normal, hybrid courtrooms have become widely accepted and the norm and will continue to remain in some form. 

A changing landscape 

The continually evolving court landscape poses new and unique challenges for the judiciary and the public, demanding a great shift in court operations and administration.

  • How do we ensure that all parties have fair, impartial, and timely proceedings, regardless of their location?
  • How do we seamlessly integrate the various legacy systems across agencies, securely?
  • What analytical insights can we arm court administration with to navigate the historical backlog challenges?
  • Is this the time to build interoperability in the court system? 

And it is not simply COVID-19 that is driving change. In recent decades, growing case volumes and costs, along with tightening resource constraints, have prompted courts to seek technologies that facilitate more efficient justice administration while reducing costs. That has led to a smaller number of central court hubs. More courtrooms necessarily imply greater travel and logistical costs for courts staff, judges, police and other agencies, and parties. That makes a hybrid approach to justice almost inevitable. 

Microsoft’s extensive partner ecosystem has been a key component to the success and scalability of various judicial industry solutions. Learn more about modernizing court operations and see the solutions offered by our partners. 

Graphic showing the flow through a hybrid court process. The stops in the flow include; case management, notifications, attend the hearing, virtual lobby, identity verification, Briefing and oaths, Hearing recording, Hearing broadcast, Evidence presentation, Raise your hand, Sidebar conversation, Hearing administration, and Hearing ends

Hybrid courtroom

As court hearings become hybrid, it’s important to identify gaps in the hearing experience that technology can bridge. While hybrid court proceedings may seem straightforward, developing an experience that allows courts to simulate a physical case hearing with minimal technology interaction and distraction is key. Quoting a judge, “Invisible technology is the right technology in the courtroom.” Technology within the courtroom is there to assist the proceeding, not hinder it. What does a truly integrated platform look like? Download the LACourtConnect Update to see an example of integrated platforms in a hybrid courtroom providing enhancements to the participants experience for remote appearances, including the ability to chat with other participants, monitor courtroom proceedings before the case is called, and more.

Data analytics

Courts across the globe are inundated with growing case backlogs. Traditional methods of analyzing vast amounts of data are tedious and time-consuming. Courts are looking at how they can put AI to work to maximize the use of data and modernize and automate selected processes. Machine learning systems built on Microsoft Azure provide critical analytics to derive actionable insights and intelligible data. With Azure, court employees can use natural language processing, form recognition, speech-to-text transcription, and translation services to index, search, and analyze text, images, PDFs, and audio or video files.   

How do we utilize AI to empower court operations to make better use of data and process cases more efficiently, to regain control of case backlogs? Learn more by downloading, AI-Ready Government: How Orange County Superior Courts Leveraged Data to Transform Operations.

Next steps

At Microsoft, and with our industry partners, we are building a justice management platform to meet these challenges, creating a single source of truth for all those involved in the justice ecosystem backed by the integrity and security Microsoft builds into all our products. Join us as we explore accelerating digital justice transformation in this upcoming blog series. 

Stay up to date on Microsoft’s global approach to public safety and justice by visiting the Microsoft for Public Safety and Justice website.