Georgia’s Eighth Judicial District Uses Technology to Keep Courts in (Virtual) Session
Introducing the Intermedia Business Innovators series – where Intermedia honors business leaders who are improving customer care, employee engagement, and business operations through innovative thinking and decisive action. Hear the stories from the business innovators first-hand.
When the pandemic suddenly threw the world into a place of uncertainty and unknowns, many organizations and institutions had to take immediate action to maintain a critical semblance of “business as usual.” For the court system, this meant coming up with alternative ways to keep the judicial process moving forward while at the same time keeping all those involved safe. For many, including the Eighth Judicial District of Georgia, the solution was virtual courtrooms.
The Eighth Judicial Administrative District of Georgia covers 27 counties across 10,000 square miles with 21 superior and Juvenile Court judges serving in its system. Bob Nadekow, District Court Administrator for the Eighth Judicial Administrative District is responsible for all the behind the scenes infrastructure that is required to keep the court system running, which includes budgeting, IT support, and scheduling everyone from judges, to interpreters, to court reporters – “Anything we can do to keep the judges on the bench and doing what they do best,” said Mr. Nadekow.
I recently spoke with Mr. Nadekow to learn more about the challenges he and his team faced, and how having the right technology in place helped to keep his courts in session.
The Remote Bench
The legal process is a highly involved and nuanced operation; one which involves many moving parts, participants, and a long-standing, well-defined structure. This process had to keep forging ahead even in the face of a pandemic, and it was up to Mr. Nadekow and his team to make sure proceedings continued throughout this unprecedented time, all while ensuring the safety and well-being of all of those involved.
Mr. Nadekow and the Eighth Judicial District turned to video conferencing for the various phases of the judicial process. From conferences with counsel, to discovery, to evidentiary hearings, to in-courtroom proceedings, what used to take place in person was now taking place virtually.
“We began asking a lot of questions about how we could ensure the safety of those in the courtroom while protecting the highly confidential and sensitive nature of the information being discussed and shared. Once we implemented video conferencing, judges began conducting all aspects of judicial proceedings sitting on the bench remotely,” Mr. Nadekow stated. “Before the pandemic, many judges would not have agreed to do video conferencing. But now they have, and they see it works, so it’s probably going to become more common even when the pandemic ends.”
“This time has taught us that there are probably some ways to do things better versus the way we used to do them,” Mr. Nadekow remarked. “For example, video conferencing makes sense for out-of-area expert witnesses. They can testify via video conference, saving everyone time and money.”
A Head in the Cloud
Keeping judges, law clerks, and assistants connected, planning schedules, and making sure the court’s confidential data is kept secure has been job #1 for Mr. Nadekow. But managing the system that kept the team connected and their data protected wasn’t always easy. “About 10 years ago, I had an email server at my house, but I didn’t have the time or resources to manage it,” Mr. Nadekow said. “The best move I made was hosting that out in the cloud. Now, when users get online, they can access their email. The calendaring system with the email is also really important for scheduling. Best of all, it’s off my plate, and I never have to worry about security.”
Although Hosted Exchange helped to keep the team scheduled and connected, there was also a need to provide a versatile, reliable, and secure tool that made preparing for hearings easy, efficient, and collaborative. Said Mr. Nadekow, “You have judges, clerks, and their secretaries all in different locations but needing to work off the same document. With Intermedia’s SecuriSync file sharing and backup cloud solution, there’s no faxing, there’s no emailing, there’s no sending files back and forth or emailing. The files are in the same place for all to share and collaborate in real time.”
Having email and file collaboration cloud solutions already in place certainly provided Mr. Nadekow and his team with peace of mind when COVID-19 suddenly forced most of the court’s staff to start working remotely. The anywhere, anytime functionality and secure access the system afforded would certainly keep the team connected while working from multiple, remote locations. What was new, however, was figuring out a way to keep the promise of due process moving forward when handling court proceedings in the usual places – e.g., courtrooms, conference rooms, judge’s chambers – was no longer an option.
Advice from an IT Veteran
While the eighth district didn’t have a pandemic playbook, they were more prepared than they realized. “Having the right infrastructure is critical. Over the years, I’ve been able to guide our judges around technology. It started with all emails being on the same domain. I’ve been able to lead them in the right direction, and that’s where Intermedia has come into play,” Mr. Nadekow explained.
When I asked what advice he would give other professionals in his position, Mr. Nadekow commented, “The biggest issue was giving up control. I had to learn that someone could do it better than me. What got me was the hosting. With Intermedia’s cloud email, file sharing, and video conferencing, they host everything for me. I now pay one monthly fee and don’t have to worry about updates, patches, or firewalls. Intermedia takes care of it all.”
Watch the full interview with Mr. Nadekow to hear the whole story. If you’d like to learn more about the tools the district uses, please visit intermedia.net/remote.