Providing court services to geographically remote county constituents: The Mohave County experience with a video kiosk

Samantha Cherney
Justice Innovation Center
RAND Corporation

Mohave County in Arizona spans the Grand Canyon, meaning that for years residents in the Beaver Dam area on the north rim of the canyon had to travel several hours to access the county courthouse south of the Canyon. To improve services for these residents, the court considered opening a second courthouse, but the cost of $150,000 was far outside the county’s budget.

So the Court looked for a different kind of solution—a technological one that didn’t require moving the courthouse or building a new one. The Mohave County Superior Court IT department investigated the use of a kiosk that would allow Beaver Dam residents to meet with county judges and court personnel by video from a local government building. When an off-the-shelf video kiosk was too expensive for the court, IT staff Kyle Rimel and Jim Pan built one for about half the cost—between $5,000 and $6,000, with monthly operating costs of just $75 a month (the cost of the kiosk’s Internet connection). 

A key advantage of the kiosk is that it uses the court’s existing videoconferencing system, which the North Canyon court was already using for arraignments and pretrial procedures, interpreter services, and hearings that involved judges teleconferencing in from other courtrooms. Because court staffers were familiar with the system, using the kiosk required virtually no training.

Located in the Beaver Dam Motor Vehicles Division building, the kiosk appears to be easy to use for court hearings. When Judge Barbara Brown or a court clerk gives defendants the option of using the kiosk, they can request to use the kiosk for hearings that require an appearance but don’t involve mandatory jail time, such as driving on a suspended license or animal control violations. When defendants arrive for their scheduled hearings, they click a button labeled “chat,” and inform the clerk they are ready. The court then initiates the call, which the defendant picks up with the telephone handset.

The kiosk has several other uses as well. People can use the chat function to talk to the clerk, and individuals have used it to ask questions about civil filings. Various court forms can be printed free of charge at the kiosk. The kiosk can also access the county’s website, so residents with no Internet access can use the kiosk to make online payments and find relevant information.

Today, residents of the Beaver Dam area—many of whom have no vehicles—no longer have to find a way to travel the nearly three hours round-trip to the courthouse to conduct many types of court business, including appearing at court hearings. The North County Court kiosk offers simple, seemingly cost-effective, access to justice for their geographically isolated residents.