When Matt Dietz, Director of IT for Elkhart County, Indiana, first approached Cisco partner Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) some 18 months ago regarding a network refresh opportunity, no one could have foreseen the journey ahead. The secure network infrastructure put in place with the future in mind laid the foundation to help address the challenges of social distancing during Covid-19.

The technology Elkhart County deployed as a proof-of-concept is based on video conferencing for remote court hearings and trials. Local technology provider NSI facilitated the arrival of equipment as Cisco helped with technology expertise and engineering to establish the first-of-its-kind collaborative solution developed with Webex running on a secure Cisco network infrastructure.

Elkhart County is demonstrating resiliency in challenging times and continuing to operate as usual in the courthouse by conducting court hearings through video conferencing technology. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Elkhart County courtroom sessions are available to the public via livestream on a public website.

The digital transformation of court hearings is helping the courthouse continue services that help their communities. Since implementation, the remote court system has helped meet social distancing needs in the wake of Covid-19. The video conferencing system has also enabled attorneys and clients to safely and securely attend hearings remotely.

While the technology behind this solution is complex, the important outcome is simplicity. This courtroom technology is helping to make it easier to go to court. That ease also translates to accessibility. Citizens no longer need to miss a half-day or day of work (and thus lose pay or impact job security) or worry about arranging transportation to the courthouse. These previous barriers no longer impact court attendance or scheduling as the tools for easy access are provided to everyone.

Easily accessible livestreamed court hearings also help the public more easily access court hearings. Simply attending live court helps citizens see a courtroom as it really is rather than viewing television fiction. They can also gain a better understanding of how the court functions and livestreamed hearings have somewhat unexpectedly become an educational piece, one that makes civics lessons much easier to grasp.

Elkhart County has experienced positive results and outcomes that can continue to bring benefits beyond the pandemic into the future.  As other local governments are facing the same challenges, they are taking notice of those with success. While Elkhart County was the first in Indiana to implement this type of technology, another county in Indiana has followed suit and others are seeking information on best practice results.

Cisco technology can help local governments and courtrooms accelerate digital transformation and provide services that help their communities with Cisco Connected Justice.

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Jennifer Keating

Director, Public Sector

Global Partner Organization