Why We Invest in Oklahoma Courts

Why we invest in Oklahoma Courts – Imagine the anxiety of having one cassette tape left to record hearings on obsolete equipment or presenting your side of an important case with a malfunctioning audio/video system. These stories, along with many similar ones, are far too common in Oklahoma courtrooms. The phrase, “We are experiencing technical difficulties,” is popular among Court staff who are doing their best to operate as efficiently as possible using antiquated equipment.  Due to budget restraints, funds are not available to make technological updates causing Court staff to worry about future hearings and heavy caseloads.

In 2008, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation created a Court Grant Fund to help remedy issues like these. Ten years later, we have provided 54 of the 77 Counties with Grants totaling close to $800,000. Helping improve the administration of justice in the Oklahoma court system has become a big part of the OBF mission and it is our goal to provide all 77 Oklahoma Counties access to the technology they need.

The five 2018 Court Grant recipients, each with unique needs, collectively handle over 242,000 cases per year. These heavy caseloads and the tech-related problems the courts experience remind us why we invest in Oklahoma Courts.

These are the real stories of our 2018 Grantees:

Grant Recipient: Lincoln County District Court
Grant Amount: $18,042
Grant Type: Audio/Video Renovation
Cases Per Year: 3,500
People Impacted: 2,500

In the Lincoln County District Court, it is a common occurrence to have major delays during jury terms because of technological difficulties. The audio system consists of a battery-operated microphone with limited reach making it difficult to hear. The visual system is 20 years old and each party must provide their own access to the screen by running a set of cables across the courtroom floor. This is not only time consuming, but poses a hazard to those walking through the courtroom. This Grant will fund a complete Audio/Video Renovation with wireless capabilities.

Grant Recipient: Okfuskee County District Court
Grant Amount: $17,889.63
Grant Type: Video Conferencing System
Cases Per Year: 1,500
People Impacted: 5,000

In Okfuskee County, construction is underway for a new jail located several miles away from the County Courthouse. Court staff worries when the new jail is complete, funds will not be available to hire enough adequately trained deputies and jailers to safely and effectively hold court on a consistent basis. This issue will not only impair their ability to hold hearings in a timely and organized manner, but could create public safety concerns by transporting inmates to and from the courthouse daily. This Grant will fund a video conferencing system allowing criminal hearings to be held via video conference.

Grant Recipient: Oklahoma County Law Library
Grant Amount: $1,347
Grant Type: Operating System Update & Repairs for Public Access Computers
Cases Per Year: 135,000
People Impacted: 60,000

The Oklahoma County Courthouse is a very busy place with 990,000 people reported coming through the doors in 2017. The Law Library Public Access Computer Room, previously funded by an OBF Court Grant, provides a place for attorneys and pro se litigants to access the Westlaw and LexisNexis databases. The Law Library reports the Westlaw database has been accessed 58,000 times in the last 6 months. This Grant will update the current operating system on each computer which will increase security, program usability and website compatibility.

Grant Recipient: Pawnee County District Court
Grant Amount: $9,217
Grant Type: Courtroom Audio/Visual Equipment
Cases Per Year: 2,890
People Impacted: 3,000

At the Pawnee County District Court, each attorney and the DA must bring their own equipment to display exhibits, play video depositions, or present audio/video evidence to the Court. This process makes each trial very time consuming especially with jurors viewing exhibits one at a time. This Grant will fund audio/visual equipment for the main courtroom which will improve sound during testimony for the Judge and Court Reporter. The large screen will allow jurors to simultaneously view exhibits.  

Grant Recipient: Tulsa County District Court
Grant Amount: $5,445
Grant Type: Interactive Display Board
Cases Per Year: 100,000
People Impacted: 1,500

The Tulsa County District Court wants to level the playing field between the average litigant and litigants in high dollar civil trials. As it stands now, the average litigant is provided a laptop for use in trial with a presentation projector. The Grant for an Interactive Display Board will give both sides equal advantage to present evidence in both jury and non-jury trials.

Interested in applying for an OBF Court Grant?

District and Appellate Courts in Oklahoma can apply annually for grant funding for courtroom technology and needs related to the administration of justice. We will be accepting applications in the Spring of 2019. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get Grant updates and announcements. You can also email us at foundation@okbar.org to be placed on a notification list. We will email you the link for the Court Grant Application once it is live.

More About Court Grants

2 Comments on “Why We Invest in Oklahoma Courts”

  1. Proud to have worked with former Assoctate District Judge Gearld Rife and the Oklahoma Bar Foundation to establish this fund and to see its continued support for the improvement of Oklahoma’s judicial system. Terry L. Stowers, Burns & Stowers, P.C.

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