Well maybe not directly to you. But to a neighborhood near you. That’s the case if you’re in St. Louis. That’s because St. Louis has for the first time created an E-Courts location in North County.
The move to create the E-Courts location in St. Ann came amid the pandemic.
In a Legal Talk Network interview, Presiding Judge Michael Burton explained that initially, the courts shifted to video hearings for many cases to keep matters moving during the pandemic. But court and legal professionals quickly realized there was a technology gap for many who needed access to the courts.
Those on the phone were at a disadvantage because they couldn’t follow visual cues or see what others were doing, according to Burton. Some court users had to dial in numerous times because their connections inexplicably dropped.
Rather than abandon a tech solution, St. Louis County Courts looked for a better way. And they looked at the problem from the vantage point of the end-user. Initially the courts opened a “Zoom Garden” at the courthouse. Those in need of court services who had bandwidth or technology issues could come directly to the courthouse and use a kiosk to access remote hearings and to file for orders of protection.
Burton, however, said that the court has long known that North County residents, many of them at or below the poverty line, had a difficult time traveling to the main courthouse in Clayton. In normal times, the trip is more than 20 minutes each way by car (with no traffic) and more than an hour each way by bus. The trip was especially onerous for those facing eviction and those seeking orders of protection.
“The coronavirus pandemic has created physical and operational challenges to the court’s ability to fulfill its mission of providing access to justice for all residents of St. Louis County,” Burton said in a release announcing the new location. “Because a large number of court users reside in North County and transportation is challenging in these difficult times, establishing a satellite operation there is a logical and crucial step for our court.”
Opened in November 2020, the satellite location is meant to be a resource for a variety of services, including small claims cases, name changes, and weddings.
Additional locations are planned for St. Louis County, according to Burton and the release.
On the Road episode, Legal Talk Network [Disclosure: I do contract work for Legal Talk Network and produce the show, Legal Talk Today.]