Courts Should Embrace Remote Technology

Courts should embrace remote technology

During the pandemic, most courts in the State of Michigan embraced using remote technology, specifically Zoom, to conduct hearings remotely. This was the first time in history that courts in the State of Michigan used this type of technology. Prior to that, everything was done “in person.” 

Sadly, with the courts having long since opened up, the use of remote technology is quickly becoming extinct. The courts are once wanting to go back to business as usual. This is a mistake.

There are several benefits to using remote technology indefinitely.

  1. Convenience for the People: I have yet to have a single client that would rather go to court in person than Zoom in from their attorney’s office or their own home or office. Who wants to drive to court, struggle park (maybe pay for it), go though a metal detector and then wait in a cold, drab courtroom? No one!
  2. Convenience for the Attorneys: Much of our work week consists of driving to court, waiting for our case to be called, talking the judge for 5 minutes and then driving back. What a complete waste! I can’t imagine a more inefficient business model. And if the client is paying hourly, he or she is paying for all that darn dead time. It’s foolish. Attorneys can also be doing a lot of work in the time they spent driving and waiting. This is maddening beyond expression. This also leads to the next advantage.
  3. Client Choice of Attorney: If things are done remotely, a client in the UP can hire a lawyer from Detroit. If that attorney has to drive, he or she isn’t taking that case. There is no way. Why should the public be restricted by their choice of attorney because the court wants to do everything in person.
  4. Cost: Court done remotely saves everyone money. I can charge less, you pay less, and I still have more profit. It’s win win. The courthouses of the future don’t need to be these intimidating mega-structures, they can be smaller and more functional building that allow the court to truly serve society and instead of frustrating it.
  5. Better Decision Making: My clients make better decision with me at my office than they do in the courtroom. Courtrooms are very intimating for most people and that leads to decisions make from anxiety, not reason. That is not a good thing.

If holding court remotely is so much better, why then haven’t the courts in Michigan decided to stay with it? After all, we aren’t all going back to dial up internet, the US Army isn’t going back to smoothbore muskets, and I have yet to see a push to get rid of cars in favor of horse and buggy. Well, there are several reasons why courts haven’t changed.

  1. Courts are Government: We all know this but we forget that governments, unlike private businesses, don’t need to embrace technology to survive. They get free taxpayer money. There is no incentive to improve their operations.
  2. Age: Many of the judges, clerks, and court administrators are older and don’t feel comfortable with the technology.
  3. Fear of Change: Change can be scary but usually offers tremendous benefits in the long run whether you embrace it or not.
  4. Ego and Control: I honestly think some judges don’t think that people respect them enough through a computer screen. I think that is compete nonsense but I am sure ego has something to do with the resistance to change.

All the reasons to embrace longterm remote court proceedings are sound and based on financial and practical concerns. All of the reasons to continue the use of in person court are psychological and foolish.

Let’s hope the 21st Century gets to have a permanent role in our Judicial System in the future.