Policy Statement

Policy Statement Trial Court policy and protocols for videoconferencing

Date: 04/02/2014
Organization: Executive Office of the Trial Court
Referenced Sources: Internal court policies

Executive Office Transmittal 14-4

PURPOSE: To establish uniform procedures for use of videoconferencing equipment throughout the Trial Court with an emphasis on safeguarding individuals’ equal access to justice and due process rights and protections under the law. Consistent with the Massachusetts Trial Court Strategic Plan, June 2013, implementation and use of videoconferencing will reduce costs, address safety concerns and delays associated with transportation of prisoners and detainees; provide for timeliness and cost savings for out of state/county parties, witnesses and experts; thereby, improving the efficiency of case management through technology.

The Trial Court shall make video conferencing equipment available for use in accordance with the following policies and procedures:

Contact for Trial Court policy and protocols for videoconferencing

Executive Office of the Trial Court

Table of Contents

I. Criminal cases

If a hearing is contemplated, videoconferencing ( is) considered appropriate for the following events, but in all instances are subject to judicial discretion:

  1. Bail Reviews
  2. Status Conferences
  3. Non-evidentiary pre-trial motions, dismissals, nolle prosequi
  4. Scheduling of court events
  5. Recall of default warrants including out of state warrants
  6. Speedy Trial Requests
  7. Requests to extend time for payment of fines, fees, or remittance
  8. Motions to seal or expunge
  9. Show cause hearings/ clerk-magistrate hearings

II. Civil cases

Upon motion of any party to a proceeding, the judge or in the case of a magistrate proceeding, the clerk-magistrate, may allow the use of videoconferencing. The motion and affidavit in support should be filed as soon as practicable prior to the court event after consulting and coordinating with opposing counsel and the primary video conferencing coordinator. A judge may at any time during a proceeding order the use of video conferencing in furtherance of judicial efficiency.

Factors the court may consider in ruling on such motion:

  1. Efforts to procure physical appearance of party or witness,
  2. Due process,
  3. Security or health risks,
  4. Security at remote site,
  5. The cost of producing a witness in relation to the importance of offered testimony,
  6. The convenience of parties and or witnesses, and other factors the court may find relevant.

III. Video conferencing in proceedings where no judge is available

In certain ex parte proceedings where relief is sought in a court during normal business hours but where no judge is physically present, a judge from the same court department may use video conferencing.

In particular, a judge may use video conferencing for the following matters:

  1. Ex parte 209A proceedings
  2. Emergency mental health matters
  3. Questions of bail

NB: The above lists do not preclude nor restrict judicial discretion to allow video conferencing in other non-evidentiary court events.

Video conferencing equipment use & protocol

In an effort to promote the orderly and appropriate use of video conferencing equipment and to insure its security and value, a primary video conferencing coordinator and backup shall be designated at each Trial Court facility by the Department Head to whom the equipment is assigned. Each of the court departments located in a multi department courthouse shall also assign a video conference coordinator and back up.

Upon installation of the equipment in a courthouse, the Clerks and Registers shall arrange for the designated primary video conferencing coordinator, his or her backup and all other Trial Court video conferencing coordinators and backups in a multi department courthouse to be trained by the Trial Court or their designee in the use of the equipment. Each Trial Court department may designate additional persons as desired, including judges, to be trained on the operation of the equipment.

Upon installation of the equipment the primary video conferencing coordinator shall determine a secure location where the equipment should be located when not in use and in collaboration with the judges in the facility, determine the courtroom or courtrooms where the equipment is to be used.

The primary video conferencing coordinator shall be responsible for the establishment of written protocols governing the scheduling and use of the equipment including the development and maintenance of a master schedule, the development of protocols for the safe transport of the equipment from one location to another and the resolution of any scheduling conflicts which may arise. Child welfare and criminal events shall be prioritized for use of videoconferencing equipment.

Downloads for Trial Court policy and protocols for videoconferencing

Contact for Trial Court policy and protocols for videoconferencing

Referenced Sources: