UTAH (ABC4) – By bike, water and zoom. These are the tools judge Jeanne Robison uses for Kayak court. Robison and social worker Kim Russo came up with the idea when they saw people camping along the river.

“And I turned to the judge, and I said, you know, ‘It’d be really great if you were out here on the water and in a professional capacity, because these guys really need some help,'” said Russo.

The idea then spawned into a multi-agency collaboration.

“From our outreach workers, the VOA and criminal justice services, to our defense attorneys who volunteer their time, to our bailiffs or judicial assistants, our court management, our judges, to the attorneys, our prosecutors… the Green Bikes and the Jordan River Commission. It is the Heart Team… Salt Lake City’s housing sustainability. This is a hugely collaborative process and we couldn’t do it without all of these collaborative partners,” said Robison.

Social workers float down first using a trauma informed approach, asking how they can help, offering a variety of services as well as water and snacks. After providing these basic needs, volunteers ask if anyone has active court cases they need resolved.

“They’re not getting a free pass for criminal conduct, there will be consequences for the criminal conduct, but we’re trying to adjudicate the cases in a way that allows them to access other resources and remove those barriers,” said Robison.

Robison said they are able to handle most non-violent cases right on the river, arranging treatment, community service or needs assessments.

“Most of the cases we hear here are cases that often arise out of being homeless,” said Robison.

Robison said it often starts with something like trespassing or camping on public property which escalates fast.

“Failed to appear, come to a bench warrant hearing recall the warrant failed to appear at the next setting, issue another warrant on and on and on and on,” said Robison.

Michael McArthur’s warrant has haunted him for years.

“I don’t like having to worry about getting arrested all the time. I don’t like looking over my shoulder,” said McArthur.

His case settled with a needs assessment McArther no longer looks over his shoulder. Instead, he looks to the future with plans on attending school.

“It’s such a stress reliever, it’s not even funny,” said McArther.

Paddling with a purpose, Robison says these missions reminder her team why they do what they do.

“We can really use it as an opportunity to see court as a service we provide our communities and not a building that people have to come to,” said Robison.