CBA Record July-August 2020

Remote Argument before the Illinois Supreme Court: An Appellate Practitioner’s Perspective By Richard Lee Stavins, CBA Record Editorial Board Member

The Supreme Court of Illinois held its first- ever remote electronic oral argument at its May 2020 session. The author argued on behalf of appellant in one of those cases. The process began with a notice from the Clerk scheduling the oral argument by Zoom, with a request that the attorneys who would be arguing identify themselves to the Clerk. The Clerk made available a photograph of the courtroom in Springfield, viewed from the Justices’ bench, looking toward the table where counsel stand to make their arguments. The attorneys were requested to load that photograph onto their Zoom page as a background, so the attorney would appear to be in the courtroom. Counsel were cautioned to be appropriately attired, even though they likely would be at a desk at home. The camera device on the attorney’s computer transmitted his image from the waist up. Two weeks before oral argu- ments, the Supreme Court Clerk and Chief Deputy Clerk held prearranged one-hour training sessions. It was not a Zoom tuto- rial; they assumed the attorneys had mas-

tered that. However, they did emphasize to be sure to click “mute off.” One week before oral argument, each attorney was emailed a link to access the Zoom room that led to the oral argument. On argument day, we were to click on at a designated time. We were then greeted by the Clerk, who put us on hold until it was time for our case. Court started promptly at 9:00 am. The author’s case was the third matter that day. During the first two cases, my computer screen displayed just a Zoom waiting message. The Chief Deputy Clerk texted periodic alerts as to the progress of the prior cases. When the prior case finished, the Clerk alerted both counsel that we would be starting. We were brought into a Zoom waiting room for a short time and then were brought into the “Zoom courtroom.” Each Justice had as a background a pho- tograph of the Springfield courtroom seen from the perspective of the attorney look- ing at the bench. In a tenth square was the courtroom timer clock. As in the real courtroom, the white light came on when the attorney has

5 minutes remaining; the red light signaled that the time has expired. One of Zoom’s features is that a yellow or green band lights up around the square of anyone speaking, or indeed, when the microphone detects any noise at all, which could be disconcerting if the sound detected was simply paper being shuffled. It is considered good practice while arguing for an attorney to make eye contact with the Justices individually. During a Zoom argument, however, if the attorney looks at the square of a Justice’s image, it might appear to everyone that he is look- ing away, not at the Justice, depending on how the participant images are organized on the attorney’s screen. As a best practice, the only place a lawyer should look during remote argument is at the camera on the computer. Courtroom courtesy is not to click off, i.e., not to leave the courtroom, until the Chief Justice states that the case will be taken under advisement or, if it is the last case of the day, not until the Marshall repeats that the Court stands in recess.

Remote Meetings in Cook County Circuit Court: A Trial Judge’s Perspective By Judge E. Kenneth Wright, Jr., CBA Record Editorial Board Member

Zoom has become the preferred platform for virtual meetings across the board – including in the courts – during the Covid-19 shutdown. But as courthouses map out how they will re-open, we see that Zoomwill be here to stay during the period of continued social distancing and beyond. Zoom is also effective in expanding access to justice as it offers an inexpensive, time- saving way to conduct trials. With Zoom here to stay, we need to understand the basics of how to conduct

online hearings in a secure and dignified way. In speaking with several colleagues on the Circuit Court of Cook County, I find a great deal of acceptance of Zoom as an effective tool to conduct court calls. The Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts has put out instructional videos (recorded Zoom tutorials) to assist judges. As for law- yers and the public, Zoom has published videos on how to host and participate in Zoom meetings in a secure manner. All litigants need to participate in a

Zoom hearing is an internet connection and a browser. While it is helpful to use the Zoom application, it’s not a necessity. A speaker and microphone are essential, and most cell phones come equipped with both. While hosting a meeting, it is recom- mended to select both the computer and telephone audio settings so that partici- pants can join the meeting in either way. As the host, you want to have the right to admit or refuse participants who assemble


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