In a criminal case, failure to appear can result in an arrest warrant and new charges for failure to appear, the process can become a never-ending spiral if left unattended. 

In a civil case, failing to show up for a court date can lead to a default judgment or a dismissal, depending on which party fails to appear. 

The Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) is launching a new service to provide case parties with the opportunity to receive text message reminders for court hearings and changes. Marion County Circuit Court is taking part in the early phases of the rollout. 

The goal is to improve communication with parties directly involved in the case – including defendants, petitioners, respondents and others – and reduce instances of failing to appear in court. 

“Text messaging doesn’t replace official court hearing notices,” explained Linda Hukari, trial court administrator for the Marion County Circuit Court. “But it does allow parties who opt in to receive text message reminders and hearing updates. It’s one more way the courts are putting technology to work to improve access to justice.”

Hukari noted that Oregon’s state courts already provide online access to case information and court calendars; online forms and instructions, including “Guide and File” Q & A style forms that help people follow necessary steps and use required legal language for a successful filing; electronic case filing; online payment for fines and fees; opt-in reminders for people serving jury duty; and online access to self-help legal information. Those resources are available through the Marion County Circuit Court website: www.courts.oregon.gov/Marion.   

Hukari said that the service only applies to state circuit courts and Oregon’s Tax Court. It does not apply to municipal or justice courts.

Parties who want to participate in text messaging will need to have a cell phone number on file with the court. This will allow them to opt-in to receive hearing notices and reminders for all upcoming or modified hearings for qualifying case and hearing types. 

Hukari said the new service can include victims in criminal proceedings, to help them participate if they choose. It does not include confidential cases such as juvenile proceedings and civil commitment cases. 

After the initial “early adopter” group comes online, Hukari said there will then be a 60-day pause to ensure that all new functionality is working properly prior to a phased statewide rollout. She said the goal is to offer the new service statewide by July. 

For more information, visit www.courts.oregon.gov.