Bedford Municipal Court, which serves 14 jurisdictions including the City of Solon, has been awarded a grant from the Ohio Supreme Court to address hearings and technical issues resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
The $20,000 grant will assist the court in expanding the number of video conferencing workstations within the court building with five new laptops, Clerk of Courts Tom Day explained.
“It is a grant that will provide state-of-the-art video conferencing equipment,” Mr. Day said.
The grant was pursued under the direction of Administrative and Presiding Judge Brian J. Melling.
In addition to the five new laptops, the court has received digital recording software and 20 additional Polycon Realpresence software licenses which allows the court to keep an audio record of all proceedings initiated through the video conferencing application, Mr. Day explained.
Due to the pandemic and its restrictions the court has suspended the need for appearances for defendants in criminal and civil pretrials but they must be available by phone.
“We put this in place so they can ‘real time’ into us and have a conversation to try to come up with resolution,” he said.
Once the crisis has subsided, Mr. Day said the equipment will still be of great value to the court.
“Beyond COVID-19, it will allow us to continue to do video conferencing in situations where it is helpful for attorneys and the court as well,” he said.
The court already does video arraignments for people in its jail, but this new technology is an enhancement and “gives us a next step,” Mr. Day said. “It allows us to do video for cases in the court.”
The court continues to maintain modified hours during the pandemic, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., but has opened the court “moderately” beginning last week, Mr. Day said, to hear additional types of cases. In addition to continuing most cases, the court is also limiting the amount of people in the courtrooms in accordance with the governor’s order.
“We’re taking this in steps,” Mr. Day said.
The court is expected to open more fully in June.
In addition to Solon, the Bedford court serves the surrounding communities of Chagrin Falls, Moreland Hills, Orange and other communities.
The court on average hears 20,000 cases annually, including civil actions and small claims actions in addition to traffic citations, misdemeanor cases and initial felony appearances.