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V. Operational Functions

V. OPERATIONAL FUNCTIONS

Div A

  1. Caseflow Management – is the coordination of court processes and resources so that court cases progress in a timely fashion from filing to disposition. Caseflow management is also the creation of a predictable system that sets expectations and helps assure that required action is taken.
    1. There are many case management rules in the Supreme Court’s Rules of Superintendence including:
      1. Sup.R. 36.011, Individual Assignment System
      2. Sup.R. 36.014, Assignment to Individual Judge or Session
      3. Sup.R. 36.015, Assignment of Case Arising out of Pre-Indictment Matter
      4. Sup.R. 36.016, Case Management of Individual Judge Docket
      5. Sup.R. 36.017, Assignment of Refiled Cases
      6. Sup.R. 36.018, Assignment of Cases to New Judicial Position
      7. Sup.R. 36.019, Assignment Following Recusal
      8. Sup.R. 37, Statistical Reports, and Information
      9. Sup.R. 38, Annual Case Inventory; New Judge Inventory
      10. Sup.R. 39, Case Time Limits
      11. Sup.R. 40, Review of Cases; Dismissal; Rulings on Motions and Submitted Cases
    2. There are also Revised Code and constitutional considerations such as speedy trial (e.g. R.C. 2945.71 and Ohio Constitution, Article I, Section 10).
    3. See Disciplinary Counsel v. Sargeant, 118 Ohio St.3d 322, 2008-Ohio-2330, 889 N.E2d 96. regarding cases “languishing” in court for an inordinate amount of time.
    4. See Zanesville v. Rouse, 126 Ohio St.3d 1, 2010-Ohio-2218 regarding a clerk’s duty to certify the act of filing.
    1. Periodic statistical reports are required by Sup.R. 37-37.05.
    2. Time guidelines and guidance on completing monthly (quarterly for courts of appeals) reporting requirements are found in Sup.R. 39.
    3. Reports are submitted using the Supreme Court’s eStats Portal (except for courts of appellate courts).
    4. Historical court data can be accessed on the Supreme Court’s Data Dashboards, which is an online public repository of the caseload statistics reported for your court. This data can be filtered to information for a specific trial court judge.
    5. Assistance with statistical reporting can be found on the Supreme Court’s Case Management Section’s Statistical Reporting.
    1. Caseflow Management Resource Guide
    2. CourTools provide trial courts with a balanced set of performance measures to demonstrate caseflow performance.
    1. There are several types of dispute resolution and mediation services available – private judges, arbitration, mediation, online dispute resolution, parenting coordination, conciliation, eldercare coordinating. See Supreme Court of Ohio, Board of Commissioners on Grievances and Discipline Opinion 2005-8, regarding potential conflicts of private judges.
    2. Evaluate the effectiveness of what your court currently uses.  If it does not at least have a mediation program, discuss with the local bar and other court customers about starting a program or consider partnering with an existing community agency or a private mediator.
    3. Ensure that your court has a local rule governing mediation and other dispute resolution programs. Sample local rules
    4. Assure training and mediator qualifications meet minimum professional standards and that training is ongoing.
    5. See the Uniform Mediation Act (R.C. Chapter 2710)
    6. See Arbitration statutes (R.C. Chapter 2711)
    7. Considerations for a dispute resolution program:
      1. Conflict issues for mediators;
      2. Confidentiality of work product; and
      3. Space, time, and resources for education.
      4. Special project fees may be available to assist with costs.
    8. Attend a free mediator roundtable hosted by the Supreme Court; encourage your court’s mediators to attend as well.
    9. Consider training through the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
    10. Resources and assistance are available from the Supreme Court Dispute Resolution Section.  See A History of Ohio's Leadership in Court-Connected Dispute Resolution
    11. Government Conflict Resolution Services (GCRS) is a dispute resolution program designed to assist local, county, and state public officials in resolving and preventing conflicts on a wide variety of topics, such as fiscal, budget, operations management, facilities maintenance, and other organizational issues.  Also, see Fiscal Processes section of this guide regarding budgeting conflicts.
    1. Requirements
    2. Statistical Reporting
    3. National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Resources
    4. The Supreme Court also provides technical assistance and guidance through the Supreme Court Case Management Section.
    5. Dispute Resolution and Mediation

Div B

  1. Fiscal Processes
    1. Preparing the court budget, budget hearing presentations, budget appropriation requests.
    2. Developing and managing the court’s operational budget – annual expenses, personnel costs, and operating costs; revenue and expense tracking.
    3. Understanding the various funding streams utilized to operate the court and their requirements and calendars (e.g., general revenue fund (GRF), grants, federal disbursements, special projects, computerization funds, etc.)
    4. Capital Budget – this includes information technology expenses, 5-year total cost of operation (TCO), facility improvements/maintenance (including satellite and ancillary facilities), vehicles, security, and equipment.
    5. In some cases, a court may compel the board of county commissioners and/or city council to approve their budget request by issuing a writ of mandamus. See:
      1. State ex rel. Hague v. Ashtabula Cty. Bd. of Commrs., 123 Ohio St.3d 489, 2009-Ohio-6140.
      2. State ex rel. Lohn v. Medina County. Bd. of Commrs., 124 Ohio St.3d 241, 2009-Ohio-6851.
    1. Court costs and fees
    2. Waiving of previously imposed court costsState vs. Braden, 158 Ohio St.3d 462
    3. Courts have various funds; some are general, and some are special.
      1. Computerization – Municipal (R.C. 1901.261) and Common Pleas (R.C. 2301.031)
      2. Special Projects – Municipal (R.C. 1901.26) and Common Pleas (R.C. 2303.201)
    4. Probation Services R.C. 321.44R.C. 2951.021
    5. Court of Appeals R.C. 2501.16
    1. Familiarize yourself with the court’s processes and internal controls of tracking payroll and leave; reporting leave without pay, pay increases, and retirement (resource: NCSC Budget Resource Center).
    2. Familiarize yourself with your county’s fiscal process and internal controls. You may wish to Seek guidance from the county auditor’s office and/or the county commissioner’s office.
    3. Review staff awards, cell phones, uniforms/robes, vehicles, and other reporting categories.
    1. Guide to Grants, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance
    2. U.S. Department of Justice Grants Management Training
    3. Grant Opportunities
      1. Supreme Court of Ohio
      2. Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services
      3. Office of Criminal Justice Services
      4. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction
      5. Ohio Department of Youth Services (Juvenile Courts)
      6. Grants.gov
      7. U.S. Department of Justice
      8. Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
      9. National Criminal Justice Reference Service
    1. Familiarize  yourself with the purchasing policies of your county government including the use of purchase orders/requests and processing of contracts.
    2. The Supreme Court of Ohio has a Procurement Resources for Courts webpage
    1. Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) – provides information about operations and financial position.
    2. Judges and Magistrate Financial Reporting requirements. See R.C. 102.02 and Jud. Cond. R. 3.15.
    1. Ohio Judicial Conference Budget Resource Manual
    2. NCSC Budget Resource Center
    1. Know the rules of the funding authority, auditor, and treasurer.
    2. Understand the court’s budget and the budget process. Some duties include:
    3. Typical sources of court revenues include the county general fund, fines, filing fees, user fees (special project funds), and grant funds. Examples include:
    4. Payroll and Other Expenses
    5. Learn applicable statutes and rules on budgeting, payroll, contracting, and purchasing (e.g., competitive bidding (R.C. 307.86)).
    6. Grant Writing and Administration resources include:
    7. Procurement –
    8. Financial Reporting and Auditing
    9. Long-Range Financial Planning – the focus is on high priority values or service requirements that need to be addressed over time with a structured set of goals, objectives, and actions. Courts should select a few long-range issues (supportive of achieving the court's mission and vision) to address over the course of the next five to ten years.
    10. Resources

Div C

  1. Information Technology
    1. House everything “on-premises” – the hardware or software is at your location or near and your IT staff has physical access to it. On-premises requires IT staff or your contracted company to provide the technical services needed to keep everything working properly.
    2. Manage data processing functions – find a vendor to host your equipment at their location and provide all of the IT services for a fee. Essentially you are “outsourcing”  your IT department.
    3. Utilize county or municipal IT staff to provide data processing services for the court. This approach provides a lower cost operational price point because the auditor's office supplies the equipment and personnel; however, court issues often are not prioritized when they occur.
    4. Use “cloud” providers where the vendor sells the court services, and the court pays a monthly or yearly subscription fee for their services and reaches the applications via the internet.
    1. Servers
      1. File and Print Server – This controls all file management and printing services for the court. This can be outsourced via some type of cloud service (e.g., Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft® OneDrive) or housed on-premises. If using a cloud provider, you usually will be charged per user per month. Another method is to piggyback on your local or municipal government’s file and print server. The third method is to outsource your operation's requirements where a vendor manages your on-premises server or hosts your server off-premises and manage file and print for you. And finally, if you have IT staff, the court could purchase a server, connect it to the court’s network and maintain everything on-premises.
      2. Email Server – It provides incoming and outgoing email, calendaring, contact management, and task tracking for the court’s staff. You can choose to have your e-mail server on-premises and maintained by your own staff or local and municipal IT staff, hosted for you by a vendor, or in the cloud (e.g., Microsoft® Exchange Server, IBM Domino, Office 365, Google Suite).
      3. Database Server – It holds applications that store data in a structured way (e.g., Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft® SQL). Database servers can be on-premises, hosted, or in the cloud depending on your needs and budget.
      4. Application Server – This holds critical software like the court’s case management solution, e-filing solution, databases, and front-office applications (Microsoft® Word, Excel, etc.). It should be noted that front-office applications can also be housed on employees’ workstations. Examples of critical application solutions include but are not limited to CourtView, Henschen, OnBase, Microsoft® Office, and Google Suite. Courts can house applications servers on-premises or in the cloud based on their internal needs, budget, and available technical staff.
      5. Web Servers – This houses the court’s website and employee portal if one exists for your staff. Most courts outsource the design and hosting of their website to a vendor in the cloud (e.g., DrupalWordPress). An alternative is to outsource the design and host the site on-premise or use a website builder as a low-cost alternative (e.g. WIXhibu, or web.com). If a court has staff that can design their own sites, then the website can be hosted on-premises as long as the court has access and ample bandwidth to the Internet.
    2. Switches – Switches are a network device that connects two or more other devices together so they can receive, process, and forward data. Without a switch, hardware and software are isolated and cannot “talk” to other hardware or software. 
    3. Router – Routers are a network device that connects computer networks. Without a router, each local area network (LAN) would not be able to access the Internet or other hardware and software that are hosted in another local area network. 
    4. Storage – In a general sense, storage is where structured and unstructured data reside. Structured data is housed in databases; unstructured data can be housed in products like OnBase. Unstructured data houses things like pdf files, whereas structured data houses data elements, like case numbers. Make sure that you consolidate your storage for business continuity and disaster recovery purposes.
    5. Workstations – Workstations are a personal computer or certain laptops that are intended to be used by one person at a time. Workstation processing can be done on the local machine, on a server, or with a combination of the two.
    6. Displays – Courts also use displays and kiosks for wayfinding (providing guidance for customers within your facility) and check-in. The hardware needs to be onsite and be connected to the court’s network. The software could be a web site, PowerPoint, or a product that is hosted in the cloud.
    7. Laptops, Chromebooks, Tablets – As a court administrator, you will also need to make decisions on whether your court is going to provide technology for a mobile workforce. Pre-trial staff, probation officers, court administration staff and judges often need to conduct work off-site.
    8. Multifunction Devices (MFD) – A multifunction device or machine that can copy, fax, scan, and print. They are essential for modern offices and allow staff to conduct work from one machine. MFDs are networked where many staff can use one machine and generally print at a lower cost per page than a copier.
    9. Printers – Printers make copies from a workstation or other input device. Printers can be networked or connected to an individual workstation. 
    10. Facsimile Machines – Courts use a facsimile machine (sometimes called fax or telefax) to transmit both text and pictures via a telephone number converting it to a single image called a bitmap which is printed on a multi-function device (MFD) or printer at the location where the phone number is located.
    11. Digital Audio and Video Recording – These are used to document a hearing. Generally, from an IT perspective, this is done through a digital audio or video recording and requires numerous different hardware and software components to make a complete system. This may require microphones and cameras in the courtroom or for security purposes throughout the court building, e.g., JAVS, BIS, CourtSmart, and FTR Gold.
    12. Microfilm/Microfiche – Microfilm or microfiche can be used to keep a record of court proceedings; however, this technology is being phased out.
    13. Presentation – To improve communication and show videos or documents, courts are using technology solutions to present information in courtrooms and conference rooms. Hardware in this category includes but is not limited to document cameras, DVD players, and USB storage devices that allow an image to be displayed onto a screen. Some courts have presentation carts with all presentation equipment integrated into their digital audio and video recording system. Nomad AV Systems is an example.
    14. Smartboards – Smartboards or interactive display systems are a way to present digital information, capture screens, write over websites and documents, and write and save notes. They are touch-sensitive and can be combined with a camera and microphones to allow for the sharing of information in multiple locations. For example, See the Sharp product.
    1. The software can be located on-premises, hosted at a remote site, or in the cloud. It can be managed by court IT staff, county or municipal IT staff, an outside vendor, or in the cloud.
    2. Jury Management Software – Courts use this type of software to manage all jury functions including identifying, notifying, communicating, and paying jurors on cases. 
    3. Case Management Software – Courts use case management systems to improve the court’s performance by bundling content to information, process, business rules, reports, and analytics. It is vital as a court administrator that the court properly funds, manages, trains, and updates the court’s case management system to ensure the court is a high functioning court and that caseflow is successful. 
    4. Evidence Management Software – Evidence is used in court hearings and needs to be signed in, tracked, and released at appropriate times during the life of a case. An evidence management system keeps the chain of custody intact and helps to ensure that the evidence is not lost. Failure to manage evidence in a proper manner may result in a mistrial and a case dropped. 
    5. Reporting Software – This is used to provide information to business and policy leaders through reporting from the court’s critical applications (e.g., Microsoft® Word, Excel, SQL server reporting services, Google docs, PDF, Proclarity, Oracle reports, Crystal Reports and Tableau). Reporting software can be housed on-premises or in the cloud and can be managed by court staff, local or municipal government staff, or an outside vender. 
    6. Financial Software – It records all the financial activity (debits, credits, account balances) within a court. Case management applications often include financial modules.  Alternatively, your local or municipal government may utilize a standardized system. Generally, the auditor’s office handles this for city and county governments.
    7. Digital Audio and Video Recording Software – These work in conjunction with hardware to create a record of the court proceeding. 
    8. Document Imaging Software – It is used to scan paper into digital document repositories that are attached to cases or files on a file and print server. Imaging software offers additional functionality that can improve cash flow for your court (e.g., on-demand, high-volume capture, full-text search and optical character recognition, Metadata, enhanced security, ability to make annotations on the documents, ability to version documents, and document linking. An example of a document imaging software solution is Hyland OnBase).
    1. Disaster Recovery - A disaster recovery plan is one of the most important aspects of every IT security program. A disaster recovery plan, also known as a business continuity plan, can be defined as a set of steps an entity will take to get their business up and running in the event of a disaster.
    2. Physical Security - Physical security addresses where key IT equipment (servers, core routers and switches, data storage, etc.) is housed and who has access to it.  A well-designed server room should have access control restrictions. Only the people who need to be in the server room should have access to it. There should be humidity and temperature control in the room, as well as protection systems for smoke, fire, and water. Since server rooms tend to house critical equipment, backup emergency power (UPS and/or generators) should be a consideration.
    3. Patch Management - Patch management involves keeping computer system firmware and software up to date.  It is one of the most difficult administrative tasks for IT professionals. New vulnerabilities are found every day. Keeping all of your systems up to date on patches and hot fixes can take much time and effort but can also provide the greatest benefit in terms of security threats.
    4. Endpoint/Antivirus Security - A comprehensive endpoint antivirus security solution should be used on all network attached computers to prevent malware infections on user devices. Antivirus software must be frequently updated in order to protect against the ever-growing list of threats.  A good antivirus product will be one that can be automatically updated on a daily basis with new threat detection files.
    5. Access control security - Access control involves managing who has access to what resources.  The principle of least privilege for users, groups and applications should be used.  This principle involves restricting access for users, groups, and applications to only those they require to perform their job.
    6. Authentication and Authorization - Authentication is the use of security methods and processes such as ID’s and passwords to verify the identity of a user.  Authorization is the process of checking whether a person, an IT component or an application is authorized to perform a specific action.
    7. Network Security - Network security can involve a wide range of tools and methods to help secure the IT systems.  At a minimum, the IT security plan should include:
      1. Firewalls – A firewall is a system or set of systems that control access between the internal network and some other external network (usually the Internet). It is basically a gateway to the network that controls who comes in and out. Firewalls provides the first line of defense for network security infrastructure. The firewall protection methods may include access control lists, blacklists, VPN’s, Proxy/NAT, etc.
      2. Access Control Lists (ACLs) on Network Routers and Switches – An ACL is an ordered set of rules that are used on routers and switches to filter traffic. ACLs are used to protect networks and specific hosts from unnecessary or unwanted traffic. For example, ACLs can be used to disallow Internet traffic to go from a high-security network to the Internet.
    8. Email Security and Protection - Email security appliances and software such as spam filters should be used to protect against phishing and virus emails, and to keep unwanted email from entering your users' inboxes and junk folders. Users should also be taught how to identify junk mail even if it's from a trusted source.
    9. Data security, protection, and backup - Data security refers to the protection of data in respect of requirements on its confidentiality, availability, and integrity.  Data protection refers to the protection of personal data against misuse by third parties. Data backup: Data backup involves making copies of existing data to prevent its loss.
    1. Courts also share data with each other and local governments through some type of Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) process (e.g., Ohio Courts Network, local bureaus of motor vehicles for licenses, Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway, and local Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS)).
    2. Video Conferencing – It is used to save money, and to improve caseflow and security. It allows parties to a case to participate remotely (e.g., GoToMeeting™, Polycom™, Lifesize™, Zoom™. Microsoft Teams™ and Cisco WebEx™).
    3. VoIP Phones – These are phone systems that use the Internet for voice. Organizations are able to save money on long-distance and provide additional services like messaging and voicemail sent to their mobile phones, centralized digital contact lists, encrypted communication, logging, etc.
    4. Notifications – Courts are using texting, automated calls, e-mail, and instant messaging to notify parties, including defendants, to a case on court hearings to reduce failure to appear (FTA) rates. They are also used to notify parties of pretrial and probation meetings, jury and witness notification, treatment meetings for specialized dockets, as well as notifications to public defenders, private attorneys, and prosecutors. Some courts use notification software to notify jurors as to when to appear for service. Many notification systems can be integrated into or are provided by case management systems.
    5. In 2013 the American Bar Association issued Formal Opinion 462 regarding a judge’s use of electronic social networking media. In 2010 the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct issued an Opinion 2010-7 regarding a judge’s use of social media.
    1. Patch management – Ongoing updates, or patches, are constantly being released from software vendors. Generally, these patches or fixes need to be tested and applied to your servers and other devices monthly.
    2. Change management – Organizations create a baseline configuration as to how the workstations and servers are set up. If there are baseline changes, they should be tested before release into production.
    3. Release management – New releases of a software product need to be tested and accepted before release.
    4. Evergreen – A schedule by which hardware and software get replaced on a schedule.
    1. Protection measures include the use of a firewall, intrusion detection and/or intrusion prevention, antivirus, anti-malware, encryption (in the database or from your server to your endpoint), and penetration testing (i.e., “pen testing”) to find weaknesses.
    2. Encourage ongoing training for your IT staff.
    3. Be aware that funds may need to be spent on security experts. 
    1. Courts need to manage or outsource all of their information technology (IT) needs. There are four major ways to manage IT for your court:
    2. Major areas that need to be managed include but are not limited to hardware, software, service desk, communications, cybersecurity, operational processes, data sharing, and governance.
    3. Hardware
    4. Software – Courts use a variety of software to meet its mission (e.g., jury management, case management, evidence management, reporting, financial, digital audio and video recording, operating systems, and document imaging).
    5. IT Security Considerations for Courts:  With the proliferation of court automation and IT systems, each court should periodically evaluate and update its security for IT systems and operations.  IT Security is a broad and complex arena.  However, an adequate IT security plan should, at a minimum include the following.
    6. Telecommunication – In today's business environment, courts are connected to other organizations via the Internet where they exchange information with one another (e.g., video conferencing, court website, employee portal (intranet), social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, kiosks, and notifications).
    7. Network – This is a group of two or more interconnected devices that can communicate with one another. Networks must be protected, properly maintained, and updated on a regular basis. Be sure to have a plan for funding planned improvements and replacements.
    8. Technical infrastructure (hardware/software) needs to be properly maintained.
    9. Cyber Security – It is essential to secure your hardware, software, and data from intrusion from the outside.
    10. Technology Policies – As a court administrator, you should develop technology policies on passwords, using personal devices, social media, etc. Staff should be trained and retrained periodically on security through a comprehensive security awareness policy. A company like Knowb4can help courts with this process. 
    11. Governance – The court needs to have a structure in place regarding authority to make decisions, create policy, manage, and obtain resources, identify scope, control costs, and establish timelines. The governance structure should set priorities, allocate resources, identify control, and support the successful completion of projects. Know the legal setup of your court/county/city so that you know your limitations. The Revised Code has provisions for an Automated Data Processing Board, for example.

Div D

  1. Virtual Court Proceedings
    1. Amazon Chime: How to Videos
    2. BlueJeans by Verizon: How to Videos
    3. Cisco Webex: Meetings Video Tutorials; How to Use Webex Guide
    4. CourtCall: What Is CourtCall
    5. Lifesize®: Support Center
    6. Microsoft Teams: Training Videos
    7. Zoom: Zoom Video Tutorials
    1. The court should consider these items before live streaming:
      1. Turn off comments and likes and dislikes on the YouTube channel or other platform.
      2. Each judicial officer should have his or her own channel except for appellate courts.
      3. Instruct judicial officers of how they are to appear on camera and to always be aware of facial expressions. Judicial officers should ensure their background and appearance are appropriate.
      4. Prepare judicial officers about exercising patience and providing the participants with ground rules.
      5. Determine who will handle technology issues. Participants should be cautioned about bandwidth issues and instructed on how to avoid such issues.
      6. Obtain a phone number and/or email address for each participant for contact purposes.
      7. Include language in the notice-to-appear that the hearing will be live streamed.
    2. YouTube Instructions - Below are instructions to live stream on YouTube from different platforms, including Zoom, WebEx and other platforms that require a third-party application.
      • Follow steps 1-2 above
      • Download and install OBS
      • Open and configure OBS
      • Instructions to using OBS can be found here
      • Open and start your virtual meeting platform
      • In OBS, choose your virtual meeting session/monitor as one of your OBS sources
      • Start streaming
      1. Zoom/WebEx YouTube Streaming
      2. YouTube streaming using other platforms will likely require a third-party application, such as "OBS" (Open Broadcaster Software)
    1. This webpage includes a list of courts that live stream virtual hearings, allowing public access to court proceedings.
    2. Also included are resources for selecting virtual platforms, tips for preparing for virtual hearings, sample ground rules for those participating remotely, and other recommended practices for public online hearings.
    1. There is a lot of upfront work required to prepare for conducting a remote hearing before the first one is even scheduled. Work on the front end will save time during the hearings and avoid continuances due to technical difficulties. (It is important to consider the resources needed to conduct remote hearings vs. in-person hearings).
    2. Develop protocols for how the court will receive and share documents, exhibits, or other paperwork in advance so that they can be reviewed and shared by the participants. Consider creating a court-specific portal or other services such as Dropbox or WeTransfer (consider accommodations required for visually impaired participants.). Documents that are shared and reviewed ahead of time can save time during the hearing.
    3. Make sure there are alternatives available for self-represented litigants who do not have the capability of using such services for uploading documents.
    4. Implement a procedure for accepting electronic signatures whether that is on the front end for electronic filing or the backend where parties may be signing a settlement agreement.
      1. This may require adopting a new local rule or administrative practice.
      2. There are paid and free services available where documents can be exchanged and digitally signed (e.g., DocuSign, Adobe Sign, HelloSign).
    5. Develop a system for obtaining necessary contact information from required participants (See Sample Contact Information Form).
    6. Determine a process for when an interpreter is needed. (Roster of Court Interpreters by Language who are available by phone or video.) (See also Roster of Interpreters by Geography). Some platforms offer a closed captioning and also the capability for an interpreter to directly address an individual with limited English proficiency or who is deaf or hard of hearing. (National Center for State Courts, Video Remote Interpretation Solutions & Resources for Courts, June 2020.)
    7. Determine how to accommodate any ADA disabilities (e.g., providing closed captioning for a party with a hearing impairment).
    8. If you are requiring parties to consent to participating in a remote hearing, formalize this process. Make sure you determine:
      1. How consent will be obtained (e.g., form)?
      2. Whether consent can be withdrawn and if so, at what point?
      3. When requiring consent, best practice is to obtain both written and oral consent where allowable.
    9. When using external products, be mindful of:
      1. Security issues;
      2. ADA accommodations; and
      3. access to technological resources.
    10. PRACTICEPRACTICE, and PRACTICE on your platform. Explore the various features that your platform may offer. It is important that you and your staff are comfortable using and helping others use the application you have selected. Watch tutorial videos and conduct test hearings to increase your comfort level. It is likely that something unexpected will occur at some point; therefore, it is important to have a contingency plan in place.
    11. Platforms offer a wide variety of features that you can use to conduct your hearing such as:
      1. “Break-out rooms” for confidential conversations;
      2. It is important that these conversations are not recorded. If by chance, a conversation is recorded, the court should not view or store the audio file.
      3. “On-hold” feature to disable video, audio, and chat access;
      4. Ability to “lock” a meeting after it has been started to prohibit additional participants from joining;
      5. “Waiting room” where participants remain until admitted into the meeting by the organizer;
      6. “Raise your hand” feature that can be used for asking questions, requesting breaks/recesses, raising objections,
      7. Whiteboarding and screen annotating functionalities; and
      8. Customizable greeting or message when participants enter the “waiting room.”
    12. Instructions for Participants - The likelihood of the remote hearing being successful greatly hinges on the ability of the attendees to effectively join and participate. Participants may be unfamiliar with conference call lines or video conferencing, or anxious about using them; the court can include instructions and resources along with the notice for the hearing. You may want to develop separate instructions for attorneys and litigants. Remember to use plain language when communicating with participants and reiterate they should not appear in person at the courthouse. (See National Center for Court Management, Plain Language Guide (updated January 7, 2019.))
      • Information explaining the party’s rights and any documents that will be included or available for an in-person hearing.
      • An explanation of what the participants should expect upon joining the meeting.
      • A reminder not to appear in person at the courthouse on the hearing date.
      • Instructions for submitting exhibits or notifying the court of witnesses.
      • Contact information where the participant can get assistance if there are questions and how to update the court if their contact information changes.
      • A recommendation to counsel and parties to communicate prior to the hearing and stipulate as much as practicable.
      • Instructions on what do to if they have difficulty joining the hearing or if they get disconnected during the proceeding. Have a designated phone number for participants to call to inform the court.
      • Visit the video conferencing website for helpful instructions on how to use the platform or application before your scheduled proceeding.
      • Test your camera, speaker, and microphone in advance.
      • Dress like you would if you were appearing in court.
      • Limit distractions during the proceeding. Find a quiet place to participate.
      • Place your camera/phone/tablet in a stationary place to minimize unnecessary movement.
      • Make sure others using your Wi-Fi network minimize their use so that it does not disrupt your connection.
      • Wait to speak until you are called on by the court and do not talk over others.
      • Keep yourself on mute until it is your turn to talk.
      • Do not use a virtual background.
      • You should be in a room alone, unless with counsel spaced appropriately apart.
      • Do not share the login information and password with others.
      • Recording by anyone beside the court is not permitted unless the court gives permission prior to the hearing.
      • Your profile or screen name must show your first and last name and must match the name that the court has on file.
      • Explain the appropriate use of the chat feature.
      1. Obtaining email addresses from the necessary participants may prove to be a challenge; therefore, you may want to consider delivering the instructions and remote hearing information electronically and also by paper to help ensure receipt. (See Sample Summons to Appear by Video – Juvenile Court.)
      2. Make sure to include:
      3. Helpful instructions to your participants:
      4. Instructions for Participant Resources:
    13. Ground Rules for Hearings - It is important to set ground rules for running a virtual hearing as this is new to most participants. Make sure to provide the ground rules to the parties prior to the hearing so they know what to expect and what is expected of them.
      • Parties should wait to speak until called on by the court and should not talk over others.
      • Documents: Share any documents/exhibits that will be reviewed in advance. Use the “share screen” function while documents are being discussed during the hearing. Request that the documents are pre-marked for exhibit purposes.
      • Witnesses: Consider providing specific rules and instructions for witnesses (i.e., to be alone, avoid using notes). Determine whether they can testify by phone and/or video and how you will administer the oath. (Telephonic testimony may make it difficult to determine the witness’s credibility.) Make sure to include their email address and/or phone number on the witness list.
      • Develop a process of verifying the participant’s identity such as holding a driver’s license or other government-issued ID near the individual’s face upon joining the proceeding.
      • Sidebar and Attorney-Client Conversations: Consider using break out rooms or private chat features. (Under Prof.Cond.R. 1.4, a lawyer has a duty to consult with and keep his client reasonably informed about matters concerning the case.) Reiterate that these conversations will not be recorded.
      • Breaks/Recesses: Develop a process for requesting breaks or recesses (i.e., put the request in the chat box, raise your hand). Make sure to inform participants that they should refrain from leaving the room or the camera without first asking to do so.
      • Chat Box: Set parameters for using the chat feature if you decide to use this functionality as there could be an appearance of impropriety and constitute ex parte communication.
      • Reiterate these rules at the beginning of the hearing.
      1. Address such items as:
    14. The Court’s Recording and Retaining a Record of the Hearing - There are multiple ways for the court to record the virtual hearing. Most video conferencing platforms have a recording feature where the audio file can be stored in the platform’s cloud or downloaded and stored on the court’s network. This method is oftentimes used if the judge and court staff are working remotely. Courts can also configure the platform into its existing audio system and record the proceeding as it normally would.

      Any conversations that take place in break-out rooms between an attorney and client should not be recorded. In the event that this mistakenly occurs, the recording should be immediately deleted and should not be viewed.

      Regardless of the method, make sure that the proceeding is recorded, and a copy is stored/backed up according to the court’s retention schedule. (Note: some platforms offer closed captioning functionality. It is not recommended that this be used to create an official transcript of the proceeding.) You may need to update your records retention schedule if necessary to incorporate video recording files.

      The court should instruct the litigants, attorneys, and the public to not record the hearing.

    15. Conducting the Virtual Hearings
      •  Draft a script for the beginning of each proceeding with instructions, ground rules, admonishments, etc.(See Sample Introduction Script.)
      • Consider having a dedicated staff member attend the proceeding as the “host” or “organizer” to help manage and troubleshoot any technical difficulties.
      • If you are not in your courtroom, consider using a virtual background of your courtroom to help simulate a “court-like” experience. A solid backdrop and sufficient lighting help to make the image display correctly.
      • Utilize “waiting room” features to control who can join the proceeding. The waiting room can also be used as a holding room for witnesses.
      • Verify attendees as they join the meeting. Immediately remove anyone who is uninvited.
      • Remind participants to look into the camera and to speak one at a time. There can be a delay in the audio, so each speaker should pause prior to speaking.
      • Make sure any required waivers have been obtained and are acknowledged at the beginning of the proceeding.
      • Address public access accommodations that have been made, if any.
      • Have participants mute themselves when not talking to minimize background noise.
      • Reiterate that unauthorized recording of the proceeding is prohibited.
      • Instruct participants what to do if they experience technical difficulties. Consider having a separate phone number not associated with the remote platform for the participant to call if they are unable to join or rejoin the hearing.
      • Have a contingency plan for what happens if the technology fails including a process to notify participants that the proceeding must be continued.
      • Be aware of your actions – facial expressions, body language, and gestures. Even more so than in a live courtroom, all eyes are watching you. Exaggerated movements can be distracting to the speaker and the audience.
      1. There are numerous logistical details to manage during the actual virtual hearing. It may be beneficial to designate a staff member to serve as the “host” or “organizer” of the video conference platform so that you can focus on handling the substantive and procedural matters of the hearing.
    16. Conducting Hearings Resources
      1. Supreme Court’s Quick How-to Guide: Selecting Technology for Virtual Court
      2. National Center for State Courts: Checklist for Judges in Virtual Proceedings
      3. Texas Judicial Branch: Zoom Hearing Instructions
      4. Pierce County Washington Superior Court: Guide for Electronic Hearings with Zoom
      5. National Center for State Courts: Checklist for Judges in Virtual Proceedings
      6. Security and Safety Tips for online hearings, mediation, and other court events.  Topics and tips on this subject are outlined in this resource for online hearings, mediations, and other court events that may require special security and safety considerations.
    17. The Separation of Witnesses for Evidentiary Hearings - The separation of witnesses called to testify at a hearing is always a concern. This is further complicated when the witness is testifying remotely. Below are some practices that assist in ameliorating these concerns.
      • Must be alone in a quiet room during their testimony;
      • May not use a virtual background;
      • Are ordered, subject to contempt of court, to turn off all electronic devices except the device enabling participation in the hearing and to refrain from exchanging any electronic messages during testimony; and
      • is prohibited from using notes.
      1. Determine whether it is appropriate for the witness to appear by video and how you will administer the oath.
      2. Utilize virtual “waiting room” features for witnesses and only admit them when they are to be called to testify.
      3. Consider providing specific rules and instructions for witnesses such as the witness:
      4. The court can direct that witnesses must testify from different physical locations from other witnesses and unable to hear the testimony, except as may be otherwise agreed by the parties on the record.
      5. Consider confirming that the witness is alone by requiring him or her to use his or her camera to scan the room before and after testimony and noting this for the record.
      6. Should the court determine that further steps for sequestration are necessary, the court could post a recording of the proceeding after the hearing, rather than the live streaming it or determine some other mechanism that ensures the witness is unable to view the live-streamed proceeding.
      7. In the order for the hearing, include in remote hearing order language such as: There shall be a separation of witnesses and no witness shall participate in or listen to the hearing except when the witness is testifying. All witnesses will be placed by the Court in a “virtual waiting room” until they testify. If a witness is physically present at the same place as a party, counsel, or other witness, the witness shall stay in a separate room except when testifying.
    18. Data - It is important to evaluate the use and success of remote proceedings. What worked well and what did not? For what types of hearings is a remote platform best suited? Courts should keep track of the number and types of cases being conducted virtually and determine how best to incorporate the use of video conferencing in the normal course of business. Conduct an exit survey on the experience, using CourTools Measure 1 (English version: CourTools; Spanish version: Spanish).
    1. Selecting the video conferencing platform - There are several platforms available for courts to use when conducting remote hearings. If your court has not yet selected its video conferencing platform, view the Quick How-to Guide: Selecting Technology for Virtual Court for helpful information.
    2.  How to Use Remote Platform Resources
    3. Live Streaming –
    4. Virtual Public Access to Ohio Court Proceedings webpage
    5. Preparing to Conduct a Remote Hearing:

Div E

  1. Security and Facility Issues
    Courthouse security is an area of high importance. The public expects court facilities to be safe and secure during the administration of justice, just as court personnel expects a safe environment in which to work.
    1. Court Security Advisory Committee (Appendix C, Standard 1)
    2. Court Security Policy and Procedures Manual (Appendix C, Standard 2)
    3. Court Facility Standards (Appendix D)
    1. R.C. 311.07(A) states, in pertinent part, “(u)nder the direction and control of the board of county commissioners, (a county) sheriff shall have charge of the courthouse.”
    2. Attorney General's Opinion 27 (2018) discusses the county’s responsibility for courthouse security.
    3. If the courthouse is shared with other departments, you will need to coordinate your security efforts with the other offices. Make sure to include all stakeholders of the shared building on the Court Security Advisory Committee.
    4. The county board of county commissioners must provide suitable court facilities. (See State ex rel Hillyer, Judge v. Tuscarawas Cty. Bd. of Commrs. et al, 70 Ohio St.3d 94, 637 N.E.2d 311 (1994).) Costs of staffing, security, maintenance, rent, utilities, improvements (capital and other).
    1. The county or municipality may bear some responsibility for the facility and/or fleet maintenance.
    2. Understanding the processes and policies currently in place are essential to facility operations (e.g., how to make a maintenance request, or a facility enhancement request, etc.).
    1. X-ray machines must be inspected every three years by the Ohio Department of Health. There is a cost to the inspection, and it should be budgeted.
    2. Detention facilities are routinely inspected by the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
    3. Duress alarms should be tested regularly.
    4. Fire extinguishers, AED, fire alarm/sound equipment for emergency/ evacuation and any other emergency response equipment, should be tested annually.
    1. Steps to Best Practices for Court Building Security, NCSC
    2. The Office of Court Security at the Supreme Court of Ohio offers security audits and other services.
    3. The Supreme Court of Ohio, Office of Court Security and  the Judicial College offer training.
    1. Make sure to refer to the Ohio Court Security Standards – Rules of Superintendence Appendices C & D.
    2. The court may not be solely responsible for its own security needs.
    3. Make sure to have an Emergency Response Plan – See NCSC Emergency Preparedness Resource Guide.
    4. Facility maintenance responsibilities
    5. Facility and equipment inspections
    6. Judge/magistrate security profiles are completed per sheriff and held on file.
    7. Develop a plan for distribution and controlled access for staff ID badges and keys; require staff to have and collect upon termination.
    8. Resources

Div F

  1. Disaster Preparedness and Continuity of Operations
    1. Ensuring that court operations continue even when faced with unexpected adversity (e.g., flood, extreme inclement weather, prolonged power outage, cyber-attack, etc.) is imperative.
    2. Each court should have a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) that addresses the court’s response to events that may affect its operations.
    3. The Supreme Court of Ohio published a Judicial Guide to Public Health.
    4. Be sure to include the IT issues in your Disaster Preparedness and Continuity of Operations plan. The Rules of Superintendence in the Court Security Standards (Appendix C, Standard 4) obligates courts to have a Continuity of Operations Manual.
    5. The Supreme Court of Ohio published a COOP Program Guide and Template.
    6. Temporary location of division of court in event of emergency (See R.C. 2301.04).
    7. NCSC Disaster Recovery Resource Guide is also a resource.

Div G

  1. Making Courts Accessible
    1. Courts have a duty to be accessible in many ways, including physically and procedurally.
    2. Courts should ensure that they are complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which became law in 1990.
    3. Managers need to evaluate how the court remains accessible, by reducing barriers and increasing assistance. Look at the court’s website, hours of operation, signage, ease in finding phone numbers and office addresses in the phone book and online directories, parking, local construction, physical accessibility to the building, courtrooms, witness stands, and forms, self-help kiosks, and clinics for self-represented litigants.
    4. When the court is working in conjunction with a separately elected clerk (or other offices/departments such as probation), consider the location and hours of operations for this office.
    5. The court manager should consider the amount of special project fees added to the cost of filing and the ability of the community to pay for copies, drug testing, appointed counsel, and other services or mandated orders.
    6. Security considerations must also be included: if participants have a dangerous/highly contested matter or there is a high risk from the public, additional security, separation prior to/after hearing, securing separate entrances for jurors and/or witnesses, accommodations in the courtroom for victim advocates, etc. may be necessary.
    7. Language (discussed more fully in Section “I” below): the court is required to provide interpreters for hearings and ancillary services. Managers may want to develop a plan on how to handle emergency or after-hours hearings where an interpreter is necessary.
    8. The court manager should be reviewing caseflow and assuring that the court is issuing timely decisions and services. Parties should not have unreasonable amounts of time to wait for a resolution to their matter; this would include any investigation, transcript, referral, etc. (See access to justice resources available from the U.S. Department of Justice and American Bar Association.)

Div H

  1. Interpreter Services
    1. Duty to appoint an interpreter and duty to use certified interpreters; (See Sup.R 80-88 and R.C. 2311.14).
    2. This includes sign language.
    1. Courts must use a certified interpreter when available.
    2. The  Roster of Certified Interpreters provides a list of certified court interpreters.
    1. Sup.R. 88 requires the appointment of a credentialed in-person interpreter if one is reasonably available.
    2. However, for unplanned or immediate needs, here are instructions on how to access the Supreme Court’s telephonic interpretation service for local courts for emergency purposes or other essential needs.  This offers quick access to a wide variety of interpreters for court users on an emergency or necessary basis.
    3. Translated versions of Supreme Court uniform forms are available in several different languages.
    1. Courts must make an appropriate record; therefore, making a digital record may be problematic if using video services.
    2. If the proceeding lasts more than two hours, courts must appoint two or more interpreters depending on the type of proceeding or the number of parties that may require an interpreter (SupR.88(F)). 
    3. The cost of interpreting and related travel expenses should be included in the court’s budget.
    4. Have a plan for handling emergency hearings where language services are required and plan for notification to interpreters and pay when a court event is cancelled.
    1. Supreme Court’s Language Services Program: provides technical assistance, training, and resources to help improve access for limited English proficient, deaf, and hard of hearing individuals.
    2. Columbus Bar Association (614.221.4112).
    1. The court must appoint an interpreter when a communication barrier is present because the individual is limited English proficient, deaf, or hard of hearing.
    2. The Supreme Court of Ohio offers a variety of bench cards addressing language service.
    3. Courts have a duty to provide interpreter services free of charge. (See Sup.R. 80-89.)
    4. An interpreter must be appointed for court functions and “ancillary court services” (e.g., court filings, probation meetings, etc.).
    5. Methods:  On site, telephonic, or video
    6. Special Considerations
    7. Model Language Access Plan (LAP) is provided by the Supreme Court.
    8. Assistance can be obtained from:

Div I

  1. Making and Keeping the Record, Public Records, and Records Retention
    1. Most court records are presumed to be accessible to the public (See Sup.R. 44-47); however, Sup.R. 44(E) allows courts to restrict public access under certain circumstances.
    1. For retention of court records, the Rules of Superintendence apply (not the Revised Code which governs other branches of government). (See Sup.R. 26-26.05.)  Some clerks of court are also governed in part by the Ohio Revised Code and public records law.  For more information see the Ohio Attorney General’s Website regarding Sunshine Laws.
    2. There are also internal files, social history, casework product, and journals for the court that document court business that must be retained according to the retention schedules.
    1. Trial courts have an obligation to capture a record of the proceedings so that a written transcript can be prepared. The main methods are live court reporting and audio recordings. Some courts also video record. Courts of appeals require written transcripts and may accept them electronically. Typed transcripts in appellate courts can be requested as public records except by parties to the case, who must pay the court reporter. Various court customers may seek audio file records, which are public records. (See Sup.R. 11 and Juv.R. 37.)
    2. For records not covered by those retention rules, courts can establish a retention schedule.
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