April 15, 2020 – Last month, as the nation fell into the grips of the coronavirus and safe-at-home orders came down, Director of Wisconsin State Courts Randy Koschnick, a former circuit court judge for Jefferson County, had important decisions to make.
On March 22, the Wisconsin Supreme Court suspended most in-person proceedings – with some exceptions – and ordered proceedings to be conducted remotely.
“I directed CCAP’s Jean Bousquet, our chief information officer, to purchase 500 Zoom licenses and we rolled it out as quickly as we could,” Judge Koschnick said.
“Within a matter of several days, CCAP put together a very good list of policy recommendations to make sure that you maintain the security of the proceedings and then we've given each judge some flexibility as far as how they're going to actually run that in their courtroom.”
All of the state’s 249 circuit court branches now have Zoom videoconferencing accounts, and the court system has also launched livestreaming of court proceedings through YouTube channels. A “live stream courts” tab is on the Wisconsin Court System website, with links to each branch’s YouTube channel.
More courts are being added daily to keep the system open and accessible to litigants and the public, and Judge Koschnick said the goal is to have all branches using the technology.
Judge Koschnick says the transition to remote proceedings is going well with no major issues, and users have embraced the technology to keep the system running.
In this video interview, Judge Koschnick explains recent Wisconsin Supreme Court orders and offers advice for videoconferencing attorneys. For instance, remember to check your bandwidth. Koschnick says bandwidth can cause streaming problems.
“Please do a test run before the actual hearing,” Judge Koschnick said. “One of the most common problems we see is a jittery visual or audio communication mainly because of a bandwidth issue. So, call up another lawyer or a friend or family member on your video, whether it's a smartphone or a laptop, and test it out see where in your house, if that's where you're working from, you have the best signal.”
He also encouraged lawyers to start scheduling hearings that may have been cancelled or suspended in the first two or three week period to minimize backlog.
“We have to accommodate not only the newly filed cases but also the ones that have been adjourned or continued; so now we've got Zoom, we're able to handle an ever-increasing number of cases,” Judge Koschnick said.
“If you have cases, even waiting to file or waiting to get on for a hearing, think about trying to get that rolling in the next couple of weeks rather than the next several months so we don't have this huge snowball effect and potential gridlock down the road.”
Tips to Maximize Your Internet Broadband
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently published updated Broadband Speed and Household Broadband guides. Simply put, as the number of household users and usage increases, so does the need for higher megabits per second (Mbps) of broadband speed. Below you’ll find some tips for maximizing and increasing your broadband speed.
Contact your internet service provider to test and/or upgrade your broadband speed. The FCC recommends at least 25 Mbps broadband speed for high usage from two users or devices at a time.
If your cellular data plan has unlimited data, consider having other members of your household use cellular data only during periods of high demand.
Switch video streaming services from high definition video output to standard definition video output.
Limit online gaming and streaming service usage.
Password protect your router to stop unauthorized use from others.
Connect your device directly to your router versus using a wireless connection.
Consider temporarily purchasing and utilizing wireless hotspots.
Limit the number of devices that can connect to your router during periods of high demand.
Source: Christopher Shattuck, State Bar of Wisconsin Practice Management Advisor (Practice 411™)