KCMO Municipal Court utilizes virtual hearings, online payments to reduce foot traffic

KCMO Municipal Court virtual hearings
Posted at 6:12 PM, Oct 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-29 19:12:12-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The pandemic has caused the Kansas City, Missouri, Municipal Court to make some big changes.

Since mid-April, the courthouse has been conducting nearly all hearings virtually through Zoom.

Court Administrator Megan Pfannenstiel said many people prefer virtual hearings rather than in-person.

"They don't have to come downtown, they don't have to find a place to park, they don't have to take time off work necessarily, they could be on a break and attend their court hearing," Pfannenstiel said.

Pfannenstiel said the courthouse will likely continue to do virtual hearings even after the pandemic is over.

Public Information Officer Benita Jones said the courthouse has been using other methods to reduce the heavy foot traffic, such as expanding the online payment portal.

In the past, if someone wanted to make only a partial payment or set up a payment plan, they had to physically come into the building. Now, they are able to do that online, which Jones said will help reduce foot traffic drastically.

"A lot of the foot traffic to our customer service window was people making payments, especially on their payment plan," Jones said.

Municipal Court Judge Keith Ludwig said the virtual hearings are proving to be a quick and easy process.

"I think by and large it's been well-received, and it's been a convenience for many of the defendants," Ludwig said. "The people that are unrepresented really seem to enjoy and embrace this because oftentimes they can join us from work, whereas with the usual setup, coming to court is going to lose you some time."

Pfannenstiel said the courthouse has been working to notify people of their virtual hearings, but there are still some people who don't realize it and come into the building. If someone doesn't have the means to join the virtual hearing, there is a desk with a representative who will help them through the process.