Office of the Clerk of Court
Michael E. Kunz, Clerk of Court
Video Teleconferencing Pilot Program (VTC)
Effective June 1995, video teleconferencing is available between the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Federal Correctional Institute at Fairton, New Jersey (FCI Fairton). The program was initiated for the video teleconferencing of criminal proceedings, and the Court authorized the Office of Pretrial Services, the United States Probation Office, the Federal Defender, the United States Attorney, and the defense bar to use the VTC system for interviews and conferences with individuals at FCI Fairton.

Edward N. Cahn, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, announced that on June 19, 1995 a Video Teleconferencing Pilot Program, sponsored by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the United States Marshals Service, will begin. A secured, closed-circuit television system has been installed which will allow select hearings and conferences to proceed without the necessity of transporting defendants, government staff, and/or private counsel to the Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton. This pilot program is fully supported by the district court judges and the magistrate judges of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Michael E. Kunz, Clerk of Court, will administer the program.

This is the only criminal proceeding pilot program currently operational in the United States. The Federal Judicial Center will study the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall impact of the program and report findings to the Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules of the Judicial Conference of the United States. The research gathered during the pilot program will serve to provide information concerning possible amendments to the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

The District Court has approved a limited group of hearings presided over by magistrate judges to be included in the pilot program. The defendant, defense counsel, and United States Attorney must agree that a hearing is to proceed via VTC. If all parties are in agreement, the Court will determine if the VTC system is appropriate. A presiding judicial officer may refuse, limit, or terminate VTC of a proceeding, portions thereof, or testimony of particular witnesses, in the interest of justice to protect the rights of the parties, witnesses, and the dignity of the court, to assure the orderly conduct of the proceedings, or for any other reason considered necessary of appropriate in the interests of justice by the presiding judicial officer.

The following types of hearings have been approved by the Court for inclusion in the pilot program: bail applications, appointment of counsel, Rule 40 transfer, requests for substitute counsel, colloquies concerning the Speedy Trial Act, discovery motions, continuance motions, and other proceedings in which the court may want to determine if the defendant understands the request submitted by counsel.

The Court has also authorized the Office of Pretrial Services, the Probation Office, the Federal Defender, the United States Attorney, and the defense bar to use the VTC system for interviews and conferences. Court proceedings will take precedence over all other uses.

A Request to Use Video Teleconferencing System for Conference should be made to the VTC Coordinator in the Office of the Clerk of Court and is subject to approval. The hours of operation are 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM, Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays. For more information, please see the FAQs and Courtrooms of the Future.