Over the past several years, most of us have come to rely on technology to make informed decisions about our lives. Whether tech savvy or not, we are all using more technology day to day than ever before. We ask Siri to find a recipe or we type an address into the maps application on our phone to find an unfamiliar location. The COVID-19 pandemic and new ways of relating, like social distancing, have pushed us to embrace technology to connect with each other, and perhaps utilize other solutions we have long been avoiding. The experience has been no different for our courts.
While technology has provided great solutions for many problems our courts deal with, it also comes with challenges. One challenge is its rapid progression, which has left many of our courthouses in dire need of modern equipment and updates. Since budget funds for these types of updates are limited, the Oklahoma Bar Foundation has established, with the aid of generous cy pres awards, a special fund specifically to improve the administration of justice through important courtroom technology.
Each one of our 77 county courthouses have their own unique needs for technology. During the early years of Court Grants, the OBF received many requests for audio/visual equipment updates. In recent years, requests for Smartboards and Tablets have increased tremendously. This year, more applicants requested Skype CARTs. Here are a few examples of how Skype CARTs provide solutions for issues our courts are currently facing:
First, smaller counties sharing court reporters will often have multiple hearings requiring court reporters set on the same date and time. Skype CARTs provide options for the court reporters to cover all counties more effectively.
Second, Skype CARTs provide parents in deprived cases a way to appear remotely if they are unable to travel to court; they allow mental health defendants to appear for hearings from mental health facilities if necessary; and they enable juveniles in detention to appear via Skype if they are housed in places across the State that are different from where their cases are adjudicated.
Third, through Skype CARTs, initial appearances and arraignments of defendants can occur while the defendants are safely housed in county jails, thereby eliminating the need to publicly transport them to and from courtrooms.
Finally, Skype CARTs provide ways for young children to testify in accordance with the Uniform Child Witness Testimony by Alternative Methods Act without having to face their rapists, molesters, and abusers. A Skype CART permits the child to testify without being in the courtroom, and at the same time, allows counsel and the defendant to see and hear the testimony and provide for cross-examination.
The OBF recently approved Court Grant requests for Skype CARTs, Smartboards and other technology in the amount of $139,279. OBF Court Grant Recipients for 2020 are as follows:
|District Court||Grant Amount||Technology Grant|
|Alfalfa County||$8,748.75||Skype CART and accessories|
|Coal County||$5,283||Wi-Fi router, iPad and accessories|
|Cotton County||$13,784.66||Skype CART and accessories|
|Craig County||$6,005||Smartboard and accessories|
|Delaware County||$12,732.62||Smartboard and accessories|
|Dewey County||$8,748.75||Skype CART and accessories|
|Johnston County||$21,450||2 digital recorders and large courtroom sound system|
|Major County||$8,748.75||Skype CART and accessories|
|Marshall County||$2,912||3 digital recorders and 1 lectern|
|McIntosh County||$7,649.75||Skype CART and accessories|
|Muskogee County||$1,607||Lectern with wireless mic and speaker|
|Osage County||$11,070||Smartboard and accessories|
|Ottawa County||$7,862||Smartboard and accessories|
|Pontotoc County||$7,228.36||Smartboard and accessories|
|Tulsa County||$6,700.50||Smartboard and accessories|
|Woodward County||$8,748.75||Skype CART and accessories|
The Oklahoma Bar Foundation is committed to improving the administration of justice in every county court in Oklahoma. To date, the OBF has made grants to 67 of the 77 Oklahoma counties for important courtroom technology updates. Since 2008, the OBF has awarded Court Grants totaling $1,119,669.80. For more information and for a full list of OBF Court Grants click here: https://www.okbarfoundation.org/grants/court-grants/