Background: Grand Traverse County Courts manage circuit and district court proceedings throughout Grand Traverse County in northern Michigan.
Challenge: When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and social distancing measures were put into place, Grand Traverse County Courts needed a way to keep their court dockets going so cases weren’t canceled or delayed because people couldn’t gather in courtrooms together.
After the Michigan Supreme Court ordered district courts to start running remote proceedings, Cliff DuPuy, Director of IT for Grand Traverse County, immediately began research to find a video conferencing camera that would meet the needs of their courtroom. According to Cliff:
“After watching YouTube videos of the Meeting Owl Pro in action and reading positive reviews, it looked like the Meeting Owl Pro would be the easiest option to set up and start using, without any external moving parts I’d have to manage, so I ordered one as soon as the county shut down to start testing.”
Use Case: Grand Traverse County started using the Meeting Owl Pro to run hybrid court proceedings due to COVID-19 after first testing it out by using it for board meetings and other inter-office staff meetings.
Since early 2020, the staff has been working on an alternating schedule, with half of the employees switching off between working from home and social distancing in the office, so the original Meeting Owl and the Meeting Owl Pro have been useful for keeping Cliff’s team connected and productive during meetings. Cliff explains:
“We’ve been using the Meeting Owl Pro to conduct and televise courtroom proceedings via YouTube in our historic courthouse and in auditorium spaces. It makes it easy to connect and hear from remote defendants, attorneys, or expert witnesses, and we can easily disable the 360° Pano to hide the jurors or use the Camera Lock feature to show a specific exhibit.”
Solution: Since starting to use the Meeting Owl Pro for virtual courtroom proceedings and board meetings this spring, Grand Traverse County has been able to set 12+ virtual court dates, helping keep judges’ dockets running smoothly so cases aren’t left in limbo while social distancing measures are still in place.
They’re able to use the Meeting Owl Pro for criminal and civil trials, and even held the first court case and the first televised court case during the COVID-19 pandemic. With their research and experimentation, they’ve been able to share their model with other court systems for conducting hybrid trials via video conference. According to Cliff:
“I love the Meeting Owl Pro, and so do all of our judges and other court administrators, which is why we’re buying more. It’s easy to set up and start using immediately, and it helps courtroom proceedings run more smoothly when we aren’t running into technical difficulties. It just works.”
Having used Logitech and Polycom cameras in the past, the Meeting Owl Pro’s portability and ease of use were two key differentiators that stood out to Cliff.
“When we use the Meeting Owl, there’s no management required. It’s easy to set up and start using, I don’t have to stand up or use a remote control to pan and tilt the camera, and the auto-focusing capabilities make conversations and proceedings flow organically.”
The lightheartedness of the Meeting Owl Pro benefits everyone in the courtroom, too. Cliff explains:
“Everyone loves when the Meeting Owl Pro hoots when you first plug it in — it de-stresses everyone in what can sometimes be a high-stress setting.”
Grand Traverse County is planning to hold virtual trials and court cases with the Meeting Owl Pro as long as social distancing guidelines are in place, and Cliff is happy to have a virtual courtroom option for when someone can’t make it in-person in the future.
To learn how other organizations use the Meeting Owl to keep their teams connected, read more of our case studies.