Judge Scott Schlegel’s history of utilizing technology in his Louisiana courtroom to make life easier for attorneys and members of the public has come in very handy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the public health crisis forced the closure of Jefferson Parish courtrooms earlier this year, Schlegel contacted those he knows in the legal tech world for assistance in bringing to fruition a plan to remotely accept guilty pleas in criminal cases.
Schlegel was connected with Documate CEO Dorna Moini, a Legal Rebel in 2019, and the 24th Judicial District Court judge worked with Moini’s legal tech company to produce an online guilty plea form.
The form Documate created was placed on a new website Schlegel launched within a week of the court buildings being shut down, he says.
Schlegel would host a hearing via videoconference for defendants who moved forward with accepting pleas, and he would provide the defendants with an opportunity to speak with their attorneys in a virtual breakout room.
Schlegel says the assistance of Documate was instrumental in the remote guilty plea process being implemented in short order, as were his years of experience collaborating with the different parts of the local justice system on technology projects.
“Because of those partnerships and because we understood our workflows, we were able to find an appropriate tech stack that fit our workflow and our needs,” says Schlegel, who was first elected to the bench in 2013.
Meanwhile, it was a collaboration with LawDroid CEO Tom Martin that allowed Schlegel to implement a process for checking in with specialty court probationers under his jurisdiction amid COVID-19.
Martin created a text-based chatbot that would send messages to probationers to see whether they were doing OK, and it was launched within weeks of development.