On December 9, the Illinois Supreme Court announced the approval of new Rule 14, which will facilitate the expansion of text messaging in Illinois courts by authorizing any Illinois court or county clerk to implement a text message notification program.
The new Rule, which was effective immediately, provides the court implementing the program the discretion to determine the content and scope of the text message notification program, which may include reminders about court dates, probation-related events, court-required appointments, new court filings, and general court announcements.
The programs must be approved by the chief circuit judge before implementation. Mobile telephone information collected will be confidential and participants can opt-out at any time.
Reducing Failure to Appear Rates
New Rule 14, which was proposed by the Illinois Judicial Conference’s Court Access and Dispute Resolution Task Force, will enable statewide consistency in electronic communication while providing a way for courts to communicate with patrons without person-to-person contact.
“The pandemic has forced courts to innovate more rapidly than ever before to develop new efficiencies while also maintaining the health and safety of court users,” Chief Justice Anne M. Burke said in a press release. “This new rule provides guidance to courts throughout the state for consistent adoption of this program, which has worked successfully in several jurisdictions.”
Data have supported the use of text message reminders as a way to decrease missed court dates. In a trial conducted by the University of Chicago Crime Lab, failure to appear rates in New York City dropped 26% and open warrants were reduced by 32% when effective reminder messages were sent.
Several Illinois circuit courts are already using text messaging to communicate with litigants, including Champaign, Cook, Grundy, Kane, McHenry, St. Clair, Winnebago, and several other counties. The jurisdictions in Illinois that have instituted text messaging programs have reported reductions in failure to appear rates, according to the Illinois Supreme Court.
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