CBA Record July-August 2020
in the “waiting room,” so all court proceed- ings should be held using a password. Judges should consider muting partici- pants to avoid them talking over each other. Zoom’s breakout rooms feature can be used to permit private communications among participants during the hearing (all private chat and breakout room features should be disabled for evidentiary hearings so that
witnesses cannot confer with anyone else during the proceeding). Official Court Interpreters and Court Reporters can be invited to Zoommeetings when necessary. Throughout the shutdown, the Circuit Court has been successfully conducting Zoom hearings for the Traffic Court, sup- plemental proceedings, jury motion and assignments call and matters in Courtroom
1401. And we are attempting to make Zoom work at the Arbitration Center. One drawback to remote meetings is that it can be stressful to conduct daily interactions via video, as online meetings can feel more taxing than in-person appear- ances. We should recognize that these drawbacks exist and take the care necessary to balance them.
Remote Court: A Trial Practitioner’s Perspective By Clare McMahon, CBA Record Editorial Board Member
We are all aware of appropriate court conduct, whether it is based on rules of ethics, local rules, standing orders, or traditional courtesy. Here are some ideas from practitioners based on forum discus- sions, personal interviews, and personal experience. A basic search of other juris- dictions may lead you to other solutions to the challenges with remote hearings that we have been attempting to resolve in Cook County, and may even make you consider whether our massive jurisdiction may be behind the times. Here are a few perspectives. First, court attire is required even via video camera. A best practice is that “you should wear pants, even if you don’t think the conference will see.” You never know if the camera angle will change, if you will get up unexpectantly, etc. This also holds true for your clients: everyone should dress as if they were really going to be in the room in real life. Second, your background is like cloth-
ing; it can be seen by everyone and should be considered in the same way. If you aren’t going to use a virtual background, then be sure to make your bed, clean up the dishes, take down posters you wouldn’t want a judge to see, etc. If you choose a virtual background, remember you or your client may be judged by it. Personally, I use a background that is an aerial view of my undergraduate alma mater. In addition, issues arise as a result of modality, such as being on a mobile device. Sometimes the only solution is to turn off video to solve the issue, but electronic eti- quette is still etiquette. For example, if the judge has video on, then you should too. If you are talking, it’s preferential that people can see your face, as that may be considered part of the right of confrontation and the ability to judge credibility of the speaker. Furthermore, modality on your end can affect your experience in a hearing. For example, if someone has taken the time to upload or screen share exhibits (which is
an excellent and professional way to run a hearing), you may be unable to watch the witness and see the exhibits at the same time from a mobile device. Lastly, do not forget about licensing. Although plenty of video conferencing software offers free access, as we all know, sometimes more participating accounts are needed (perhaps the judge wants two – one for exhibits, one for video), or it may take longer than expected. Therefore, prior to the allotted court time, it’s essential to talk with and email with your participants to make sure your host has full capabil- ity, that uploading of exhibits has been coordinated, that any pretrial issues we formerly dealt with in the hallway (such as stipulations, housekeeping matters, or procedural agreements) occur before the meeting starts. Bottom line: The video conference is the bench and should be treated as such.
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