Whether we are waiting in traffic, stuck at the bank, or spending an eternity at the DMV, waiting in line is one thing Californians are familiar with. A recent trend, however, has given residents of San Bernardino seeking easy access to justice one less line to worry about.
In order to alleviate the consequences of statewide budget cuts that resulted in numerous courthouse closures, projects are being created throughout Southern California. Specifically, these projects provide individuals living in rural areas with a more convenient way to accomplish mundane legal tasks.
Filing a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Online
Marsha Slough, the Presiding Judge of San Bernardino County, has created a project that allows individuals who need to file a domestic violence restraining order to do so online. Previously, if someone from a small town within the county wanted to file a restraining order, he or she would have to drive several hours to the closest courthouse to begin the lengthy process. They would then be required to fill out a number of confusing legal documents without the assistance of a lawyer and face the possibility of a drawn-out phase in which the document is returned with corrections needed.
“What we want to do is to leverage technology in a way that is providing access to justice for people who find it extremely difficult to access courts because of geography, shortened clerk hours or not enough labor within the court to process documents,” Slough said. 1
San Bernardino is an extremely populated county and the introduction of the new online system has had a vast impact on a large portion of its citizens. Victims are now able to complete the form from the comfort of their home and file the restraining order at their own convenience.
Other counties have taken note of San Bernardino’s increase in efficiency and have quickly followed suit.
Fighting a Traffic Violation Online
After becoming another county to fall victim to courthouse closures, the Fresno County court sought a way to provide motorists with a practical way to contest traffic violations without the hassle of traveling to the main courthouse in Fresno. In March 2013, a pilot program was launched that allowed online video conferencing of traffic court rather than requiring violators to appear in court. Drivers who choose to contest a violation can now have a hearing before a judge regardless of their location within Fresno.
Based on the program’s undeniable success in Fresno, a number of other courts -including San Bernardino- are looking into implementing similar video conferencing programs in their county as well. 2
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1. [Daily Appellate Report – “Courts go online to alleviate access to justice problems – Katie Lucia -July 31, 2014]↩