An enduring question in our society is ‘When is the best time to plant a tree? The consistent answer is twenty years ago. Prior to March of last year, the questions or conversations regarding “disaster” planning concentrated on malware intrusions, ransomware, and document retention. But pandemic planning? That was not part of many conversations. At the State and Magistrate Courts of DeKalb County, Georgia, we were blessed to have a court administrator, who had the vision and foresight to plan and prepare our courts for the 21st century and whatever challenges it could bring. That is the reason, Troy M. Thompson, Esq. was nominated for the McMahon award, before anyone could have fathomed that a pandemic would require remote proceedings for nine months and counting. The award is annually presented to a judge, court employee or attorney who has made a significant implementation or development in the use of technological advances in a court of limited or special jurisdiction. For the past several years, Attorney Thompson, a former systems analyst and programmer for several fortune 500 companies and a Lean Six Sigma professional has quietly and methodically redesigned, and upgraded hardware and software for the courts, including creating one of the first remote hearing platforms in the State of Georgia. He and his IT team built a state-of-the-art e-platform courtroom for State & Magistrate courts for remote criminal and code violations hearings, in addition to implementing two jail courtrooms for remote hearings. Further, Mr. Thompson designed the expansion of the e-citation, e-filing and hearing platforms for State & Magistrate courts, all with the blessings and support of Chief Judge Wayne Purdom, Chief Magistrate Judge Beryl Anderson and the county’s innovative IT Director John Matelski. Attorney Thompson is the ABA Lawyers Conference Group Administrator for the Atlanta Metro Lawyers Group.
While all of the foregoing is laudable, it was Mr. Thompson’s foresight regarding Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that has made a marked difference in our Traffic Division’s ability to handle a volume of cases during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, some stakeholders had not been receptive to the ADR concept, but as we know, when we are forced to adapt, adapt, we must. I was receptive to the concept and Mr. Thompson, his IT team, our platform partners and I developed the architecture for a fully electronic platform “On-line Case Resolution” (OCR), for greater remote access and fairness for individuals required to come before the court. The OCR platform allows the Defendant to review an electronic copy of the citation or accusation of charges. The Defendant then must view or read an electronic version of an advisement of rights and confirm their understanding before proceeding to the next step of the platform. The Defendant and or counsel is then able communicate with the prosecutor electronically, including the upload of evidence and drivers license for identification purposes. Once an electronic offer is made by the State and accepted by the Defendant, the case is moved to a portal for the judge to review the electronic file, which includes the electronic “Plea in Absentia”, incorporating the Defendant’s sixth amendment waiver of an in-person proceeding. Once the judge accepts the negotiated plea and adjudicates the case electronically, the Defendant is given an electronic notice to pay the fine within 72 hours through the court’s on-line pay portal. Over 2,000 cases have been processed through the OCR platform during the pandemic, to date, and this innovation represents a first in the Southeast, perhaps the nation, on this large of a scale. A similar platform has also been designed and strategically aligned for the Magistrate court.
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE PROFILES
In fulfillment of one of my objectives as Chair, I am proud to announce that as of October all of our District Representative positions are filled with energetic Judges. It is my pleasure to introduce and highlight: Judge Brenda Roper and Judge Chris Chu.