District court planning to make app

The Union County District Court will soon have its own app.

Last week, the Union County Quorum Court took up an ordinance to transfer $15,000 from the court's automation fund – made up of revenues generated by the court – to its machinery and equipment fund.

Judge Jack Barker was on hand at the meeting to explain what capabilities the app will have.

"We're trying to get into the modern times and have an app, just like the Sheriff's Office does," Barker explained. "We need something like that so we can communicate with the public."

Barker said when the COVID pandemic closed courtrooms across the country, court officials realized they needed more avenues to reach out to those with business in the court.

"We didn't have any way to make contact with people other than the telephone," he said. "They'd think they didn't have to come to court, and we'd have failures to appear."

The new app will send notifications to users' phones and tablets any time court is rescheduled, Barker said, and will also contain a calendar showing district court hearing dates.

"It'll have those push notifications, so if we did have to shut down, everybody that has the app is going to be notified, just like the sheriff's office does whenever there's road closures and things," he said. "And we'll allow for a court calendar... so they'll know what's going on with the court, because things change periodically."

Those with fines will also be able to pay online through the app, he said.

"A lot of people don't like to drive out there, they'd rather do it another way. We try to do it by telephone, but it would be much easier to do it with the app," Barker said. "And it also tells whatever services and programs the clerk's office has got going on."

Local residents will also be able to make public records requests in the app.

"A lot of people need records run off, printed off, so they can expunge their records, or for whatever reason... Defense attorneys may need to request records in the courts, and if it's in our database and it's a legitimate request, we can do so," he said.

The district court is working with the same company that developed the Union County Sheriff's Office app, and once the app is ready for download, a QR code will be made and published throughout the county, giving local residents an easy way to download it.

"That's going to be posted on the wall, on banners and on our doors and windows and stickers, so that people can just walk up there and click! And then that takes them straight to the app, they download the app and we'll be in full communication with everybody that has the app," Barker said.

Present Justices of the Peace unanimously approved the district court request.

"I think it's a good way to keep the public up-to-speed with what's going on in the clerk's office and what's going on as far as district court," Barker said. "We're trying to be more ... transparent and let people know what's going on."

JPs also unanimously approved an ordinance to appropriate $900 for Zoom accounts for three circuit court judges during their regular meeting last Thursday.