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Crime And Courts

Central Oregon courts to offer text message reminders for hearings

Goals: Better communications, fewer cases of 'failure to appear'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Judicial Department is launching a new service in all three Central Oregon counties to provide case parties with the opportunity to receive text message reminders for court hearings and changes.

The goal is to improve communication with parties directly involved in the case – including defendants, petitioners, respondents, and others – and reduce instances of “failure to appear.”

The change will help parties in civil and out-of-custody criminal cases avoid financial and other consequences of failing to appear, keep cases moving, and increase productivity for courts, attorneys, law enforcement and other case participants by avoiding the cost and delays of rescheduling, officials said Tuesday.

In a criminal case, failure to appear can result in an arrest warrant and new charges for failure to appear. In a civil case, it can lead to a default judgment or a dismissal, depending on which party fails to appear. 

OJD launched a pilot of the new service in the Josephine County Circuit Court on Feb. 8, bringing a new case category into the system each week over four weeks.

A group of “early adopter” circuit courts – Deschutes, Crook, Jefferson, Marion, Morrow and Umatilla counties – will go live on Monday, March 22 with all eligible case categories.

“Text messaging doesn’t replace official court hearing notices,” explained Jeff Hall, trial court administrator for the Deschutes County Circuit Court, “but it does allow parties who opt in to receive text message reminders and hearing updates. It’s one more way the courts are putting technology to work to improve access to justice.”

Hall noted that Oregon’s state courts already provide online access to case information and court calendars; online forms and instructions, including “Guide and File” Q & A style forms that help people follow necessary steps and use required legal language for a successful filing; electronic case filing; online payment for fines and fees; opt-in reminders for people serving jury duty; and online access to self-help legal information.

Those resources are available through the Circuit Court websites: www.courts.oregon.gov/crookwww.courts.oregon.gov/jefferson, and www.courts.oregon.gov/deschutes.   

Hall said that the service only applies to state circuit courts and Oregon’s Tax Court. It does not apply to municipal or justice courts.

Amy Bonkosky, trial court administrator for the circuit courts in Crook and Jefferson counties, said that parties who want to participate in text messaging will need to have a cell phone number on file with the court. This will allow them to opt-in to receive hearing notices and reminders for all upcoming or modified hearings for qualifying case and hearing types. 

Bonkosky said the new service can include victims in criminal proceedings, to help them participate if they choose. It does not include confidential cases such as juvenile proceedings and civil commitment cases.

After the initial “early adopter” group comes online, Bonkosky said there will then be a 60-day pause to ensure that all new functionality is working properly prior to a phased statewide rollout. She said the goal is to offer the new service statewide by July. 

The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) includes the Oregon Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Tax Court, circuit courts in every Oregon county, and the Office of the State Court Administrator. The Department is committed to protecting rights and democracy by maintaining a strong, fair, and impartial court system. For more information, visit www.courts.oregon.gov.

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