Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Presidential Leadership Scholar Judge Scott Schlegel rapidly scaled his existing tech-stack so that court cases could continue in Louisiana by conducting hearings via Zoom and developed a text-based Chatbot for specialty court probationers.
When courthouses shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a unique challenge occurred. Courts around the globe had to figure out how to hold hearings without physical buildings. Fortunately for Schlegel, he was one step ahead. “We have been working on modernization of the court system for quite some time — and so the transition has been painful like everyone else, but not too painful as a lot of the bones were already in place,” he said. Schlegel further discussed this on the podcast, Legal Talk Today. Many Courts, like the 24th Judicial District Court, have responded to the significant challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by switching to virtual hearings. Judge Schlegel and his colleagues are also able to sign orders electronically, handle remote guilty pleas, send text/email reminders, and provide the public with web based forms through its new website (www.courtonline.us). Judge Schlegel was in the process of developing this website when the shutdown occurred.
In addition to learning how to hold hearings by video, the Court had to solve another significant problem. The Court needed to develop a new way to remain in contact with hundreds of specialty court probationers who are typically required to frequently check in, in-person. Since in-person check ins were no longer possible, Judge Schlegel came up with the idea to develop a text-based chatbot that would check in on probationers to see if they were ok on a weekly basis. Tom Martin, founder and CEO of LawDroid, jumped at the opportunity to help and within 3 weeks, Martin, Schlegel and their teams had developed a text-based chatbot that provided the solution the probationers needed.
Schlegel’s response to COVID-19 in the courtroom doesn’t stop here. He and his team recently launched a new check-in system to be used in courts once buildings begin to reopen. The system, available via an app, will limit the number of people in the courthouse at any given time for those permitted to attend hearings in-person.
“Everyone will be asked to download the Sine App so that they can check-in remotely from their vehicles when they enter the geofenced court location or to scan a QR code that will be posted around the outside of the courthouse. Folks can also use iPads that will be located at the front of the courthouse if they don’t have a phone or can’t figure it out,” says Schlegel.
Read more about Judge Schlegel’s response to COVID-19: