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Even as courts lean into digital transformation, there’s still one major hesitation: mobile technology. Should smartphones finally be allowed inside the courtroom? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Join the 22nd Judicial Circuit’s Trial Court Administrator Dan Wallis and ImageSoft’s Senior Sales Engineer Terry Chaudhuri for an engaging conversation that finally puts a pulse on the industry’s journey toward a mobile future.

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Kevin Ledgister: Welcome to the Paperless Productivity podcast where we have experts give you the insights, knowhow, and resources to help you transform your workplace from paper to digital and making your work life better at the same time.

TThanks for joining us today. My name is Kevin Ledgister, your host and this podcast Mobile Technology in the Courts is a discussion on where mobile is at in the world of justice and the challenges that courts face with embracing the technology. So with me today is Dan Wallis, Trial Court Administrator for the 22nd Judicial Circuit in McHenry County, Illinois. And Dan is my favorite person from that county. And in no way diminish, that’s the only person I know from that county. So Dan, thank you for joining us today. Welcome.

Dan Wallis: Thank you.
Kevin Ledgister: And we also have Terry Chaudhuri who is the Senior Sales Engineer for ImageSoft and technology extraordinaire and all-around tech tech guru. So Terry, thank you for joining us today as well.
Terry Chaudhuri: Great. Thanks for having me, Kevin.
Kevin: OYeah. So Dan, I’ll start with you. I know you’ve been dealing with mobile issues for years, and I’ve seen just from being around the block, I’ve seen court’s response with all the technology in a variety of ways. One from, hey, let’s do a tango to they’re going to hold up a silver cross and get rid of the vampire that you know is all things cellular. So maybe you could just take us through some of your experience with the rise of smartphones and mobile and the challenges that face with that. And those could be internal or external challenges with customers or the public or internal terms of somebody wants to bring their smartphone in the courtroom. What are some of the things that you face and things that you’ve seen in your experience?
Dan: Right off the bat, you, you nailed it when you start talking about court customers and how they come to court and what their expectations are. And some of the research that’s out there is really pretty astounding. And I think it was the Pew Research Center back in 2018 did a look at technology and found that 92% of the Millennials, 85% of the Gen Xers and 66 – 67% of the Baby Boomers have smartphones. And yet there are courthouses still around who won’t let court customers bring their smart phones into the building because of whatever reason. Obviously a smart phone does a lot more than just make phone calls. You can possibly take a picture or maybe you could video record or you could tape record. So maybe that’s part of the issue.

But the reality is such that the expectation by more than 67% of Baby Boomers is that they use a smartphone. Well, because not everybody has one, let’s not make an unfair advantage. So let’s keep them all out. I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense anymore. And courts need to be mindful that people are used to doing their business on a cellphone, a smartphone. I do mobile banking. I can buy airline tickets or hockey tickets, or if I’m going to get a hotel up in Wisconsin because I’m going to go ice fishing this weekend, I can do all of those things on my phone. I can talk to the IRS on my phone via electronic messaging. Why courts haven’t quite embraced that across the country yet, I’m not sure.

In Illinois in the 22nd Circuit, we’ve sort of embraced it to a degree. We allow people to bring in their phones, but we’re still kind of dancing around the edges a little bit when it comes to allowing a smartphone to be utilized in a courtroom. We do text reminders. We do where we can send out notices of upcoming court events and those kinds of things via text messages. But there’s so many different applications within the court context. Let’s say a small claims, a small property damage. You take a picture of it, well you can’t bring that and show that to the judge in the courtroom. Why? Well the rules say you can’t. The technology has passed the rules and so have the expectations. So that’s really where we need to start looking at allowing our court customers to come in and present photos and videos and other information on their smartphones in their courtroom.

It’s John Greacen, Greacen and Associates did a whole look at technologies and came up with 18 different ways that courts should use technology. So I’ll plug him and also the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System for putting this report together that outlines different ways that mobile technology should be allowed to be used or technology in general, but a good portion of it as a mobile technology. It’s time for courts not to be afraid of the smartphone.

Kevin: Sure, sure. I’m just curious because I’ve never had this experience. I remember going to a courtroom here in Nashville where I live and it was the day where the judges was just going through the various different motions and whatever. And I had my cellphone with me. Of course, I was very discrete. I kind of kept it in my pocket and it was on silent. Nobody asked for my cellphone and removed. But I don’t know if it was allowed or not, but I’m just curious if the court doesn’t allow a cellphone or a mobile phone into the courtroom, did they take it away from you? Did they inspect you? I mean, what’s the process for something like that?
Dan: Person comes in, they come through a screening checkpoint. Here we allow them to bring it in, but they’re advised and there’s rules that are posted. You can’t take videos or photographs with your device. Court security officers will remind individuals when they’re in the courtroom, you can’t have it out. You can’t have it on. Put it on silent, put it away kind of thing. But there are courts not too far from us that if you show up with one, they’re going to tell you to turn around and go back out and put it in your car. Now again-
Kevin: Really? Wow.
Dan: Oh yeah, absolutely. Or they’ve got lockers or there was actually I think at one of the conferences I was at, they were selling lockable bags that you keep your cellphone with you, but it’s going in a bag that you can access. You can make a payment from your cellphone, but we’re not going to let you to come in with it. You could have information on it for your court case, and we’re not going to let you bring it in. It just is unimaginable at this point in time that we still have courthouses that won’t let cellphones or smartphones in. It makes no sense to me because it’s…

And here’s the other side of the coin. Some of these places that won’t let the public bring in their cellphones will let attorneys, card carrying attorneys bring it in. So what does that say to our court customer? Step back away from the bench because you’re part of the great unwashed and you can’t bring in your cellphone device. And you can’t access the information that you might need.

Here’s another perfect example. You get a ticket because you don’t have your insurance card with you. Well I got all my insurance information on my cellphone. Matter of fact on I think most of the insurance carriers, you get a digital copy of your insurance card anymore. And if you need to file a claim, you can just take the pictures right from your phone and you can upload them and all that great stuff. So if you need to show proof of insurance and it’s on your phone, yeah, figure out a different way. Go find a computer with a printer someplace so that you can log into it and get it. So again, really, in my humble opinion, makes a huge double standard. It’s okay for an attorney if you need a new future date to look at his phone to see if he’s available, but you can’t because you’re not an attorney. Therefore you can’t be trusted enough to look on your phone to see what your schedule is. It makes no sense.

Kevin: Yeah. Yeah. I think Dan, you said it exactly right that the technology has become parts of our lives, and it sounds to me like a lot of courts still have the rules and practices around mobile just hasn’t caught up with that. And those are some interesting conundrums where the information, the data that you need is all on your cellphone, and yet you’re in a middle of a proceeding and you can’t use your device. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation to see how that goes down. But I think that does present some challenges.

I’m going to loop Terry in here for a second. And Terry, I know that when you go out on different meetings that you’re meeting with clients and courts that are out there and sometimes you get asked questions about mobile from a court perspective that’s very forward looking or forward thinking. So even if they decide to go with a solution that you present on that particular day or that particular year, they may not be ready to implement mobile, but sometimes you’ll get those questions or you will see those in the requests for proposals that you respond to where they ask about mobile technology. What are some things that you’ve been seeing or experiencing with that or conversations you’ve had regarding mobile technology?

Terry: Yeah, so it does come up a lot, but it’s more of an afterthought a lot of times when people are talking about any type of digital initiative in the courts. They kind of think differently. They don’t take into kind of the future where things are going. And if you do think, as Dan’s saying, there’s more mobile devices on the planet now than there are people. So there’s everywhere and everybody has it. It’s just like part of you like you carry a jacket, you carry your phone. So the courts really need to start embracing that and bringing that into their priorities as they plan for future initiatives. Because they bring in these solutions a lot of times and they’re siloed off and cellphones are brought in last. And then they get stuck in this kind of keeping the lights on mentality of just funneling money into legacy systems to keep them running. And they never really embraced the automation and some of the other things they could do by including things like cloud and mobile into their future planning.
Kevin: Have either you guys seen any courts… And again, you touched on your court a little bit in terms of some things that you guys have done, but have you seen anything out there with any courts that implemented some really cool or neat mobile solutions that we could talk about for a moment? Because I think our audience would love to hear some great success stories as well as the challenges that are out there. So Dan, have you seen anything that’s out there?
Dan: Sure. Actually we’ve gotten very good with our technology. We’ve got some excellent people in the circuit clerks information technology department that are really reworking some of the things that, I’ll say are more of the legacy holdovers that we’re now revamping using responsive design, taking into account mobile devices. Because everything was originally built for computers. Well now instead of computers, as Terry said, there’s more wireless devices or mobile devices than there are people on the planet. So we might as well start thinking that when you’re building something now that that’s where you start, that’s not where you finish. So like our attorney portal that allows attorneys to come in and look at their cases, all of that’s been rewritten so that they can use their mobile devices more efficiently and it does the automatic formatting, recognizes what type of platform it is, those kinds of things. And so every one of those systems we’ve kind of walked through to really take a look at and see how we can improve the end users experience. So it can be done.
Kevin: And you’re proof that it can be done.
Dan: Absolutely.
Kevin: Awesome. Terry, have you seen anything out there, success stories that you’ve seen with mobile devices at all?
Terry: Yeah, there’s been a few, some really nice ones. I mean, if you think about just checking in for a court hearing, people would start to use a kiosk type mentality. But users can now and court participants can just check in right from their phone when they arrive at the courtroom and they don’t have to wait in line. Some of these very busy courts, you have to put multiple kiosks out and people already have a computer in their hands. So it makes those a little bit easier to think about jury duty people are doing now where I can actually confirm, check in or to reschedule if that doesn’t work for my schedule for jury duty. We’re seeing that. And then think about just online payments of tickets and things. It’s just a natural fit for me to be able to go on, search for my ticket, and pay right with my phone.
Kevin: Sure. Sure.
Dan: I want to follow up on that real quick because, true story, and I think I might’ve talked to some of you about this once before. But I was actually going to an Access to Justice Conference and was on my way down, decided to stop and get breakfast. And a on the way in, I saw where… This was at a IHOP that they actually had a sign up, no checks accepted, but right below that was their app that you could go online and order your food and have it ready. So by the time you arrived, it was ready for you. And I remember thinking to myself, “Well gosh, you know here we’ve got an IHOP that has an app that allows you to order and get seating and pay for your meal all electronically. And here I am going to this Access to Justice Commission talking about how we really still need to allow people to bring cellphones into the courthouse.” It was just astounding to me that IHOP is more technologically advanced than sometimes the judicial branch of government.
Kevin: Oh, the irony. Pancakes electronically, right?
Dan: Absolutely. Yeah. You can’t bring your cellphone in. You can’t go online and pay your fees and fines. But you can go online and you can order pancakes providing you’re not in the courthouse when you do it.
Kevin: I was also thinking too, and this is something we haven’t touched on it, but I’m just wondering in terms of a use case. I’m thinking about somebody that’s out there. They have a cellphone, maybe they don’t have… There’s a lot of people that have a smartphone like an Android or an iPhone or a Google phone or whatever, and they don’t have a computer. But they have a smartphone. Like my aunts that I was just visiting with yesterday, she has a smartphone but she doesn’t use a computer. So if you have somebody like that that needs to take a picture of a document, of a form or something like that. Maybe they picked up a paper form of the courthouse and they go home and they want to file electronically. They could just take a picture of that document and file it electronically. Here’s the image of document and here’s the supporting information that you need, which I think is really kind of a cool idea. But I don’t know if anybody… Have you guys seen anybody that’s other that’s doing anything like that? Allowing any kind of filing from individuals by using a cellphone to capture documents or forms, or is it still kind of a paper world out there when it comes to that?
Dan: Terry, you want to take that one first?
Terry: Sure. Yeah, so we are seeing it starting to trend up when people kind of get into the world of an electronic form, if you will, where they can fill out a little bit of information and take a picture and attach a document right there. You’re right, Kevin, it’s not really adopted maybe as widely as you would think, but it’s starting to grow. And it just takes the burden off of the court to process the document, to get it in and indexed into the right inbox. When the user does all that, completes it and takes the picture, they’ve done all that work. Whereas your paper forms or PDF fillables still have to be submitted. Then someone has to intake that form and route it to the right steps, and there’s just a lot of extra overhead that’s just unnecessary. So I’m starting to see more and more leverage electronic forms and being able to submit things through the phone but not as adopted as you would think.
Kevin: Sure. Is there any other trend? I mean, I would think in… And we talked about access to justice. I would think that with mobile phones being so ubiquitous out there that people would want to look at that. Dan, is there any kind of legislative or legal concerns as to why we may or may not want a cellphone in the courthouse? And I asked this question because, oh man, this is going to date me here. But I remember watching the OJ trial and they weren’t allowing any kind of recording devices and you couldn’t watch. You could draw pictures of the proceedings, but that’s pretty much all that you had. And maybe there wasn’t an internal video of that, but it wasn’t being shared with the public with some of this stuff. And so I’m just wondering is there any kind of legality or is this really something that’s for the most part it’s up to the courts to actually take the step and go through the thought process and adopt the technology and figure out ways to leverage it?
Dan: Well, most of the rules that we’ve covered and bring and cellphones is managed at the local circuit level here in Illinois. And now at the same time there’s also Supreme Court rules, which govern the taking of photographs and those kinds of things and extent media and being able to comply with those rules. But from a mechanical standpoint what I’ve kind of seen in different conferences and different opportunities I’ve had to look at different locales, a lot of the issues when it comes to some of the technology really is rooted in some rules that are outdated, frankly. That even how we do service, you can drop it off on their desk. You can send it in the mail or you can use a fax machine. Why not email? And some places haven’t gotten that far yet where they’ve adopted…

And I guess a lot of what I see is when you start talking about technology and different ways to do things and how it impacts the operation in the courtroom and how things are done, you wind up getting into what I call the what if scenarios. People, “Yeah, that’s a good idea. But what if or what if or what if. What if you send it by email and I don’t get it?” Okay. How often does that happen? I mean, email’s pretty reliable. If you’re e-filing it, a document, we’ve got your email address. So if you give us the right one, it’s pretty good. Now you might need to check your junk email the first time we send you something and then make us an approved sender. And then it just magically appears in your inbox. So there’s sometimes you’ve got to overcome that what if. And then of course then you get the, my favorite, “Well not everybody has a cellphone. Not everybody has a computer.”

You’re right about 2% of the population. So 98% of the population has either a computer or a smart device. So we’re not going to do it for the 98%. we’re going to worry about the 2% that doesn’t. Make sense.

Terry: It does. There’s huge advantages. Just going for even majorities of kind of automation and different things. I’m thinking about when kind of the OCR phase and everything really got popular and it came through when people said, “Well it’s only getting 50% correction on automating these documents through, and that’s just remove 50% of your workload.” So yeah, it didn’t fix everything, but taking 50% of the workload away is a pretty significant advantage. And that’s just one example.

As we move into the mobile world, if you think about it, there’s so many people who aren’t at a desk. They’re field workers, and they’re around. And they even estimate 70% of just the US workforce in general will be mobile into next year. So that is quite a lot of, that’s not just for courts, that’s the entire US workforce. But think about all the field workers, your social workers, child protective services, probation, public defenders. They are not at a desk. They rely on their phone heavily to get access to court records, to documents, taking interview notes, recording sessions with different people in the public, for instance. These are all things that are being done today or need to be done today. So if you can add solutions in ways for them to access and be part of the court process in the day to day actions that they do, it just makes sense for everybody in the long run. And bringing those phones even into the courtroom is going to be another side to that equation as well.

Kevin: Yeah. Dan, as you were talking, a what if scenario came up in my mind, and that is what if somebody records a part of a proceeding and then they could have deep fake out of it and it goes viral. And it represents something that the courts… That was not actually what happened in the court but arouses the public, and it creates this huge public relations disaster. I wonder if that topic has ever come up or thought of when that is being considered.
Dan: Oh, I guarantee that’s come up. It’s come up in some of my conversations here at the 22nd Circuit. We’re in the process after the 1st of January, we’re going to allow news media to bring in cameras and video cameras so that they can record proceedings or take photos. And one of the questions that we’ve been tasked with is what if you see somebody who’s not a member of the media who’s filming? When you’ve got a cellphone and they’re going to take a picture or maybe stream something out, and that’s where we as the court needs to be vigilant. We’ve got security officers. We’ve got court personnel in there.

I’ve actually follow a local newspaper, and there was a particularly interesting murder case that was working its way through the system. And I noticed that she was tweeting from the courtroom as the proceeding was going on. I approached my chief judge, made him aware of what I had seen, and then he instructed me to go down and have a polite conversation with her about how that’s not supposed to be done. And I did. And we took care of that issue. But there’s going to be times like that.

Now, of course, the remedy is if you sort of using the analogy, if you say something, see something or if you see something, say something, then bring it to the court security officer’s attention. Certainly the court security officer can address it and if need be, the judge can address it from the bench as well. So there are opportunities there. And again, it’s one of those things too that how often does that truly happen? When I get into those situations where what if somebody starts pushing back on whatever, and then my first thing is, “Well, okay, how often does that happen?” Well, it happens a lot. “Okay. What do you mean a lot?” Well, it’s come up a couple of times.” Okay. When? I mean we’re talking about it happened one time in the history of the court. It happened once every couple of years.” Those kinds of approaches and obviously being mindful about it, but also not being scared by it.

Kevin: Sure. And that’s a great way to approach it too kind of breaking it down because the naysayers will typically will inflate the numbers in terms of how things could possibly happen. But in reality it sounds like how you guys address that situation was very good. And you had one individual and of course it was the president and he’d be tweeting all the time. That’s a different scenario, but it was good that you guys were able to handle it that way. And probably once people get used to the notion and they see the signs and that type of thing, it probably comes something that’s commonly known. And you’d probably be able to have less issues with it.

And you know, and if you do… If you don’t, then there’s others. I’ve seen others do things like implement a Wi-Fi systems so people connect to the Wi-Fi. So they can get their data and then they’ll block access to certain social media outlets to their network. So people can’t live tweet or do anything like that to pass on information in real time that could be sensitive. So that’s very good.

Any final thoughts, Terry or Dan, in terms of what we’ve talked about or anything else that you’d like to add to this conversation? This has been very, very, very interesting, compelling topic and one that I think is going to bear out in the courts in the years to come. But I just invite any final thoughts on this.

Dan: Terry, you want to go first?
Terry: Sure. It’s just interesting now that even I think with just court or government website traffic, I mean I think over 50% of it is all for mobile devices. So the trend is obviously changed down to that direction. So we just want to make people aware that they do need to be mindful of mobile devices, not only for courtroom but for the workers as well as the people who participate in the court processes. And that’s going to be something that’s not going to change. It’s just going to continue to grow. So it has to be brought into all future discussions on anything they plan, whether that’s for security or for the access to justice type scenarios.
Kevin: So, Dan, what are your thoughts? What are your final thoughts on this subject?

Dan: Well, and certainly as time passes, the expectation’s going to continue to change. And from all of the reports and all the information that we’re seeing, the courts are just going to have to change with it to meet the expectations. As the Baby Boomers pass and the Gen Xers and the Gen Ys come through. By the time we get to the millennials, all they’re going to know is mobile devices. And it’s not that far off. And courts need to really address and take a look at and take stock of what we do, why we do what we do, and be willing to challenge those processes to meet the expectations.
Kevin: Yep. All excellent thoughts. This is a great discussion, and we may need to circle back at some point in time and tackle the subject again as new things and new issues come up and cop up about this. Dan, you referenced a study that was done. And do you know if that study is publicly available?
Dan: It is. John Greacen, the Eighteen Ways Courts Should Use Technology To Better Serve Their Customers. It was a partnership between John and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System out of Denver University. And John, his last name is Greacen G-R-E-A-C-E-N. And it is published. So if you were to Google that, you’d be able to see his good work.
Kevin: Awesome. And we’ll actually in the show notes put a link to that as well too. So anyone that’s listening to that they want to refer back to that study, we’ll make that available to you.

So Dan, thank you once again for jumping in on a call with us. We so appreciate your insight and your experience with everything that you’ve been able to share from your court. And Terry, thank you so much too for sharing with us today. So thank you again everyone for listeners for joining us today. And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to the Paperless Productivity Podcast. We tackle some of the biggest paper-based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.

Thanks again for joining us on this podcast, and if you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to Paperless Productivity where we tackle some of the biggest paper based pain points facing organizations today. We’ll see you next time.