Courts at all levels have started holding remote proceedings as a way to continue their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Even the Supreme Court conducted oral arguments over the phone and made the live audio available to the public. In the lower courts, nearly every jurisdiction is encouraging or requiring judges to hold certain proceedings by phone or video.
To be sure, remote technology has the potential to be a boon to transparency and access to justice more generally. In Montana, for example, the use of video court appearances enabled legal aid organizations to serve previously underserved parts of the state. In Nebraska, the court system has used video to increase the availability of interpreters for non-English speaking defendants. And in the current Covid-19 crisis, there are people now home with their families who may have still been detained had remote proceedings not been available.
Faced with an unprecedented public health crisis, many courts have been leaders in the effort to safeguard the health of their communities. Remote technologies have buoyed the justice system — allowing courts to both limit the number of people coming through their doors and keep essential operations running.