Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

Morris County is expanding its use of video conferencing for certain court proceedings in both the superior and municipal courts.

With the approval of the Board of Freeholders, Morris County Chief Information Officer John Tugman has been working the judiciary, municipal officials and the Morris County Sheriff’s Office for more than a year to have the Internet video technology installed, tested and implemented.

The capability can be used anywhere and with any device that has Internet access such as tablets, PC’s and Smart Phones.

Morris County Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo said the idea is to reduce the need to transport inmates from the county correctional facility to the Morris County Courthouse in Morristown or to municipal courts across the county.

“Video conferencing for certain proceedings will reduce the inmate transportation requirement and the costs associated with sheriff’s officers, meals, overtime, fuel, maintenance and insurance,” said Mastrangelo, freeholder liaison to Information Technology. “It also eliminates public safety risks associated with transporting and guarding inmates and reduces the impact on municipal law enforcement.”

The Internet video technology is also being offered to municipal courts in the county, said Freeholder Doug Cabana, liaison to law and public safety including the courts.

“This is a way of streamlining court hearings for standard procedures such as arraignments and first appearances,” said Cabana, an attorney. “It’s using technology to improve efficiency.”

Probation officers have started using the capability to conduct video interviews from their offices with inmates, eliminating the need, in many cases, to travel to the jail.

Cabana noted the video conferencing will also facilitate the ability of an inmate to meet with his or her attorney, though not completely eliminate the need to for in-person interviews.  Trials and major pre-trial hearings will also still be conducted with defendants present in the courtroom.

Chief Information Officer Tugman said the video service is now in use by the Superior Court in Morristown, and has been successfully tested with Pequannock, Jefferson, Dover and Randolph.

The service is only available to government agencies and attorneys.