In the near future, Nebraskans may be able to pay court fees and look up other court-related information at their local Walmart or Target with a new Court Information Services Kiosk.

Last year, the Nebraska Administrative Office of the Courts and Probation completed the test phases of a new kiosk that includes an Internet payment system application that allows the public to pay traffic tickets and citations. The kiosk also includes applications to search the multi-court case calendar and the Nebraska Supreme Court website’s forms page, according to a state report.

The kiosk was first tested from March to June 2010 in the Franklin County Courthouse, said Bill Miller, Nebraska deputy state court administrator for IT.

“When we put it out in Franklin, we didn’t have a touchscreen with it, so the instant feedback was everybody tried to touch [the screen] instead of using the roller ball and mouse,” Miller said. “So when we brought it back from Franklin, we did modify it so that we added a touchscreen capability to it.”

Other modifications have been made to the kiosk since testing. Miller said during the pilot project, the kiosk originally had a video conference feature so the user could virtually meet with staff members in a county court. This function was later removed because Miller and the team working on the kiosk weren’t satisfied with the software.

Although Nebraska is currently pushing kiosk technology into the mainstream, the technology isn’t new, said James McMillan, principal court management consultant for the National Center for State Courts, in an e-mail. In Orange County, Calif., a kiosk is used to provide self-help services related to the courts http://www.occourts.org/self-help/ with the I-CAN! system.

McMillan said kiosks have been used in courthouse lobbies for information and on occasion they’ve been used as a payment method similar to an ATM.

While using kiosks in courthouses hasn’t proved too popular for the last 10 to 15 years, kiosk use is making somewhat of a comeback. Larry Murphy, a court consultant for the National Center for State Courts, said because technology advances so quickly, kiosks often become antiquated.

Murphy said he sees two kiosk trends as they relate to courts: Kiosks are going to pop up more, and courts will also focus on providing information through Web services. 

“The national trend is to deliver services of the court more conveniently to the citizen — rather than driving to the courthouse, standing in line, and to pay or to give an affidavit or file an affidavit with the court — just to make it more convenient,” Murphy said. “That’s what the citizens are demanding.”

Providing a court information kiosk in places like stores would be beneficial because the hours that the kiosk could be used extend beyond when a courthouse is open, Miller said.

“I really think where the use of [the kiosk] would probably end up is if it could be put in a Walmart or a Target or something like that where the public really gets to it,” Miller said.

But one of the struggles for keeping a court information kiosk in a store like Walmart is maintaining it if something goes wrong, Murphy said. If the kiosk goes offline or gets a virus, the store needs to follow specific procedures to fix the problem.

Miller said Nebraska’s $6,000 kiosk is currently in storage in Lincoln, and on Jan. 20, when the chief justice gives the state of the judicial branch address to the state Legislature, the kiosk will be put in the Capitol rotunda to allow members of the legislative branch to try it out.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.