MCP Insights

Key Takeaways from the National Association of Court Management Conference

Posted on August 4, 2023 by Nancy Crandall

Court systems mull how artificial intelligence can improve, streamline their operations

Recently I attended the National Association for Court Management (NACM) conference and left armed with the following key takeaways:

Hybrid/remote hearings are here to stay — The COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to dramatically change how they operated, and courts were no exception — the situation clearly proved the veracity of the adage, “necessity is the mother of invention.” In the courts, the result was the arrival of hybrid and remote hearings.

While they sound the same, hybrid and remote hearings are quite different. A hybrid hearing involves having some people in the courtroom, i.e., judges, attorneys, and their clients, and others participating via a video-conference platform, such as victims, witnesses, and experts. In contrast, everyone participating in a remote hearing does so via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or similar platforms. 
Hybrid and remote hearings require some technology implementation, such as: 

  • High-video cameras and audio and recording systems to capture the proceedings.
  • Network connectivity that provides sufficient bandwidth to support video-conferencing.
  • Software solutions designed to provide interpretation of several common languages, including American Sign Language.

While some processes in the courts will return to what they were pre-pandemic, most courts are normalizing the use of hybrid and remote hearings in their day-to-day operations, at least on some level — a straw poll conducted during one of the sessions indicated as much. One reason is that hybrid and remote hearings can reduce failure-to-appear rates, which in turn reduces backlogs and associated stress on court staff and other personnel. Another is that such hearings increase access to justice for litigants. These are very positive outcomes.

One reason for the normalization is that court personnel got used to working from home during the pandemic and showed that they could do so and still perform their roles effectively — hence, they want this to continue. However, courts are a customer-facing business, so a solid case can be made for having personnel in the courthouse. Consequently, many courts are trying to find balance, and some have done so by offering scheduling that allows personnel to still work remotely on certain days of the week.

Either way, it looks like hybrid and remote hearings are here to stay. Perhaps the best evidence of this is that software developers are striving to develop or enhance various technology-management solutions to accommodate the needs of the virtual environment. This involves case and evidence management but also managing the various systems that make hybrid and remote hearings possible. There is a lot to juggle concerning the required technology and court personnel needed to develop the same stagecraft exhibited by film and television production managers — fortunately, solutions are emerging that help facilitate much of that.  

Artificial intelligence shows promise as a force multiplier — AI is a technology that is not well understood today, especially in terms of how it can be effectively applied in the courts; indeed, it often is met with a considerable amount of skepticism. But one conference session made a strong case for using AI as a means of doing more with less personnel and reducing human errors.

For example, virtually every court system engages in electronic filing (e-filing) of case documents to some degree. When a file is submitted electronically, it must be reviewed by a human to ensure that no mistakes have been made and that it meets court-filing acceptance criteria. When a mistake is identified, the e-filing could be rejected and returned to the submitting attorney so that it can be corrected.

Now, AI-driven solutions are emerging that remove the need for human intervention and, even better, can correct things, such as the selected document type code, to avoid rejection. This occurs because such solutions employ optical character recognition (OCR), a capability that enables the solution to “read” the document and determine how the submission should be corrected. A common occurrence concerns using erroneous motion codes; based on what the AI solution has read, it will correct the code automatically. Another is that an e-filing might contain sensitive data that should have been redacted but was not; emerging AI solutions not only can identify such data but also perform the redaction. A degree of confidence can be applied to corrections made by the AI solution, regardless of the form they take; those with low confidence levels still could be reviewed by a human.

The great thing about AI solutions is that they get smarter thanks to machine-learning technology, i.e., they can be taught what to look for and how to respond to what they find, so confidence levels should rise over time, further reducing the need for human intervention. The overall result is faster and more accurate e-filings, less stress on court personnel, and a reduction of the time needed for the document to become available electronically after it has been submitted into the e-file system.

AI solutions being developed for court systems fall under the category of robotic process automation (RPA) and include things like chatbots that serve as virtual counter clerks, in addition to what is described above. Such solutions offer the promise of releasing personnel from mundane, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on those that have greater value. This is important because many court systems continue to have difficulties recruiting, hiring, and retaining personnel — the ability to do more with less personnel is critical in today’s environment.

Well into the future, it’s feasible that AI could be leveraged to assist in the important work performed by court systems and their personnel more substantially — after all, AI exists to support and augment human intelligence. But that’s a topic for a future blog. 

Nancy Crandall is an MCP senior project manager. Email her at

Topics: Courts

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