MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Three virtual courtrooms have been added to municipal court in Mobile County.
It’s the first of it’s kind in Alabama and a solution to court backlog in Mobile County. The city of Mobile has made three of its municipal court rooms compatible for virtual court proceedings through technology upgrades.
70 percent of all judicial functions happen in municipal court in pre-trial, taking up the majority of dockets, and with the recent backlog, it’s become an issue at Government Plaza. The virtual courtrooms were their solution. These improvements grew out of navigating the COVID-19 pandemic but will also help to comb through backlogged cases.
Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he feels it’s a huge accomplishment for the city.
“Were talking about the fact that you don’t have to bring prisoners here that police don’t have to come here, or people coming and going and so it’s just going to cut the time to hear a case,” Stimpson said.
The virtual aspects are user-friendly, with enhanced audio and video capabilities and other useful features like white noise to be played when attorneys need a side bar with a judge. Attorneys only need to scan a QR code on one of the screens to gets things started.
Security is also a priority in the design.
“Each individual courtroom is wired individually, so any wireless access ceases when you walk out that door and that is for security purposes,” Director of Courts Deborah McGowin said.
Not only will the defendants not have to physically appear, but neither will officers testifying.
“They don’t have to come down here and sit for two or three hours and then be dismissed because of something else that happened in the courtroom,” McGowin said.
Stimpson said that aspect of the virtual courtrooms is crucial because “the policemen can be in their patrol car, on their beat or at their office and be able to weigh in through Zoom and give their testimony.”
The total cost — $323,000. They hope to have virtual courtrooms installed for circuit court soon.