With the “new norm” losing some of its “newness” as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, virtual court proceedings are becoming widespread across federal and state courts. Here are some important areas to consider before and during remote court proceedings.
Test Your Technology
At this point, many people have participated in a conference call in which one participant is too loud or too quiet, has a poor internet connection, or otherwise cannot be understood because of technical difficulties. Virtual court proceedings conducted by videoconferencing software are not immune from such technical difficulties. Testing your internet connection, setting your headset or microphone to an appropriate level, or dialing in by phone if your internet bandwidth is suboptimal can go a long way to address these problems. Additionally, test your computer system beforehand to make sure you meet the minimum technical requirements.
Ensure your workstation is free of clutter and is presentable to the court. Then, consider the nature of the proceeding. For instance, if the hearing is an evidentiary hearing where demonstrative evidence will be presented, have hard copies of all exhibits closely accessible just as you would in person. You should also take advantage of being able to set up your workspaces to your preference — an advantage often unavailable in the courtroom.
Regardless of whether exhibits will be introduced electronically, make sure all unused applications and files are closed. This is particularly important for attorneys who use multiple screens and may be sharing their screen to present evidence virtually.
Take steps to minimize disruptions during the hearing, such as silencing your phone. You should assume the worst: someone will call you right as you begin arguing. If you are in a busy household or otherwise live with others or pets, be sure to inform your housemates what you are doing and when. Pets should be secured.
During The Hearing
Be sure to make “eye contact” with the judge. Eye contact in the videoconferencing world means staring straight into the camera, not at other persons on your screen. Try to continue to read the judge’s facial expressions when possible to ensure you have a sense of the judge’s reactions to your arguments. Just as in court, do not speak over the judge. Be particularly mindful of this point, as video lags and audio problems tend to increase the possibility of parties speaking over one another.
Feel free to contact a Jackson Lewis attorney if you have any questions about virtual court proceedings in your local court system.