Remote Court Hearings Program

2021 NACo Achievement Award Winner

Loudoun County, Va., VA

About the Program

Category: Information Technology (Best in Category)

Year: 2021

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic required swift action to keep people in the courthouse safe. While an emergency judicial order suspended most court proceedings, criminal case proceedings and certain emergency civil proceedings required adjudication. To protect the judges, judicial staff, clerk’s office staff and litigants who appear in court, the Clerk recommended launching a virtual court proceeding protocol. The Clerk had previously converted all court records to digital format and provided remote access to all digitized court files to attorneys and judges. The Chief Judge immediately supported the virtual initiative and an exploratory team was assembled to assess options and implement a virtual court protocol. This team included information technology deputy clerks, courtroom clerks, judges, bailiffs, Sheriff’s deputies and staff from the local government information technology agency.The team was able to deliver two solutions that did not require any visits to the courthouse for hearings. For civil hearings, all parties were empowered to participate virtually using conventional virtual meeting applications. For criminal hearings, the team integrated a solution with an existing l videoconferencing system at the local jail. This system permitted all parties, including defendants incarcerated in the jail, to participate in criminal court hearings virtually. This vision to embrace and implement virtual court hearings would not have been possible without the Clerk’s successful digitization of court records program.