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California Considering Video Trial Pilot Program

By Robyn Hagan Cain on October 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California Courts are still trying to cope with budget cuts. Under this year’s budget plan, the courts will be dipping into their reserves for $300 million that used to come from the state, and a separate $240-million cut will delay 38 construction projects, the Los Angeles Times reports.

When the money isn’t there, courthouses have to be consolidated. Consolidation not only imposes a burden on court staff, but on people appearing before the court. To address that problem, the Judicial Council and the Administrative Office of the Courts are developing a remote video trial pilot project.

The proposal would authorize trial courts to establish pilot projects permitting remote video trials in cases involving traffic violations and compulsory school attendance violations.

The suggestion for remote video trial pilot projects originates from the Superior Court of Fresno County, which has recently been compelled to close several court facilities because of budget reductions. As a result, more than 200,000 residents in surrounding counties and rural areas are facing increased costs and travel time to conduct court business in downtown Fresno. Some of those people will have to travel as far as 120 miles roundtrip for their court appearances.

The remote video trial pilot project will establish a framework to allow defendants in eligible cases to appear at trial by two-way video from remote locations designated by the court.

California's Judicial Branch is currently accepting comments about the pilot project proposal. You can read the proposal here, on the Judicial Branch website. Comments, which are due by 5 p.m. on November 2, 2012, may be submitted online or emailed to All comments received will become part of the public record.

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