In January 2018, USAID Open Justice Project equipped all Moldovan courts with video conferencing equipment. Courts’ staff use the video conferencing equipment to conduct online meetings with other courts, including the Superior Council of Magistracy. The real-time online meetings lead to improved communication and effective court administration, which is crucial to ensure a smoother implementation of the complex court reorganization and optimization process.

In the aftermath of the Court Reorganization and Optimization reform, the communication and coordination process between courts was difficult and lengthy due to travel time. Now, thanks to the video conferencing solution, these communication barriers vanished.

Open Justice conducted 21 trainings in all courts for more than 250 court staff in how to use the new equipment and benefit of its various features. By end of March 2018, courts managed to organize 6 working meetings using the video-conferencing system, engaging more than 100 participants. Court employees reported increased effectiveness of their activity thanks to the recently installed equipment.

Marina Tilipet works at the Court of Appeal in Balti and, along with her colleagues, is happy to use the newly supplied video conferencing system. “It is very easy to conduct online round tables with staff in other courts in order to exchange experience and to organize working meetings with the Secretariat at the Superior Council of Magistracy, Chiefs of Secretariats and Chief Accountants. These makes knowledge sharing easy and timely,” she noted.

Since February 2018, the staff of the Court of Appeal in Balti started using the system on a regular basis. On February 22, 2018, the Court of Appeal in Balti conducted a video-conference entitled “Case management as the basis for an efficient justice.” Court clerks, assistants and specialists from the monitoring and documentation department, in all district courts within the jurisdiction of the Balti Court of Appeal, participated in the video conference. The court staff discussed the insolvency cases transferred to the Court of Appeal in Balti and the results of an international project implemented with the support of the Institute for Penal Reforms, the Center for International Legal Cooperation, and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Bucharest.

Appellate Courts in Comrat, Cahul and Chisinau held similar video-conferencing events with the SCM and the district courts in their jurisdictions. Court staff is eager to use the equipment because it provides a modern and cost-efficient solution to enhance communication about court administration, promote best practices, encourage discussion about how to solve daily challenges and ensure knowledge sharing and uniformity of applying court procedures in the context of court reorganization and optimization.

The benefits of the video conferencing equipment can be extended beyond using it to connect courts for online meetings. Open Justice will pilot the video recording functionality of the equipment in April 2018, so that court hearings can be video recorded, which will further increase court transparency and improve the quality of trial minutes. Currently, all court hearings are recorded in audio format and each party to a trial can request a copy of the CD with the audio recording.

Moreover, the video conferencing equipment offers the possibility to remotely connect inmates in penitentiaries to participate in court hearings. As soon as the penitentiaries purchase similar video conferencing equipment, this function will become available. The use of the video conferencing between courts and penitentiaries will considerably reduce costs for transportation and security of bringing inmates to participate in court trials.

USAID Open Justice Project will continue to support the Moldovan judiciary advance court reorganization and optimization reform by implementing modern information technology to aid court effectiveness, transparency and modernization.