Governor signs bill extending use of videoconferencing in district courts
Mike Seals - April 14, 2021 11:11 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Tuesday, Gov. Stitt signed Senate Bill 97 into law expanding the use of videoconferencing for all district court cases. The bill’s author, Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, said the change was strongly urged by district attorneys to address an oversight in 2020 legislation authorizing the use of videoconferencing in certain district proceedings.
“Last year, to ensure the safety of our courtrooms, staff and citizens during the pandemic, we approved legislation allowing virtual testimony in all stages of district civil and criminal proceedings. However, the bill inadvertently omitted virtual witness testimony in trials before a judge or jury,” Brooks said. “Senate Bill 97 will extend this modern technology to all district court cases allowing our courts to work more efficiently, saving witnesses time and money on unnecessary travel, and also keeping them safe as we continue dealing with the pandemic. I want to thank Representative Miller for her work getting this bill through the House, for the legislature’s bipartisan support and Governor Stitt’s approval.”
The state’s Chief Medical Examiner (ME) is an example of a witness who will benefit from being allowed to testify virtually. Currently, the ME travels around the state testifying in various cases. Allowing him to testify virtually will save the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner time and money, while improving efficiency.
Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, is the principal House author and praised the legislature’s support of the judicial reform.
“Senate Bill 97 is a much-needed reform to help modernize our district court system, and I’m grateful for the tremendous legislative support it received on both sides of the aisle,” Miller said. “The pandemic has forced everyone to do business differently, and our courts are no exception. This is a positive change, though, that is drastically going to improve the efficiency of jury and bench trials.”
The new law went into effect upon the governor’s signature.