Pandemic Brings Technology Updates to Michigan Courts

Michigan Courts Before Pandemic

The tradition and way of doing things within courthouses across the state of Michigan before the COVID-19 has always been slow and resistant to change. While some courts and jurisdictions have embraced technology and made their courts more efficient, this was hardly the norm. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack recently testified to a U.S. Congressional panel about the typical operation of courts pre-pandemic stating that technology has brought “much-needed change” to the justice system. Chief Justice McCormack stated that the pandemic drove more change in three months than has occurred in in the past three decades in the state of Michigan. She noted that even though this pandemic was not the disruption anyone was looking for, it was the catalyst to transform the Michigan judiciary into a “more accessible, transparent, efficient, and customer-friendly branch of government.”

Changes in Michigan Courts

With the current uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the current requirement to keep people socially distant, many court options have had to go remote. Courts across the state of Michigan have embraced Zoom as the main way to conduct remote hearings. Courts have held more than 50,000 hearings on Zoom since April 1, 2020. This has led to nearly 350,000 hours of online time for these court proceedings. Zoom proceedings have removed the typical barriers that some people have in accessing a court. In the past, a court hearing would require transportation to and from court, parking, potential childcare, or time off from work. Chief Justice McCormack has noted that these Zoom hearings have been overwhelmingly positive for court access.
Many court hearings are now also livestreamed on YouTube. You can watch any judge in the state on this courtroom virtual directory. The state has also launched an online dispute resolution system, which gives people the chance to work out a dispute without needing to go to court.

What’s Next?

Certain types of hearings will likely not change anytime soon. Criminal trials currently do not favor remote witness testimony for jury trials. The Michigan Supreme Court very recently unanimously voted against allowing a prosecutor to have witnesses testify remotely without the defendant agreeing to it. This issue leads directly to the confrontation clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States constitution. Other types of hearings and cases, however, welcome this sort of change. Every judge in the state of Michigan now has a Zoom license. So, the ability to hear cases like debt collection or bankruptcy for instance remotely on Zoom has many excited for the ability to handle these cases more efficiently. The end of the pandemic isn’t quite in focus yet. It is expected that the longer the pandemic continues, the more innovations will have to be made in order to continue to conduct courtroom business in a safe and efficient way. As the Zoom technology improves, so will the remote hearings. Many attorneys welcome the ability to not have to physically appear in multiple courtrooms in the same day, especially when they are not close to each other. It is unclear how much of the old way of doing things will return at the end of the pandemic when it comes to Michigan courts. It seems as though the innovations and changes have been welcomed throughout the state.

Any Further Questions?

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.

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