Written by Attorney John Barragry
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the court system in several different ways. We have seen a change to the way our cases are handled, including using Zoom as a medium to hold remote court hearings. To some extent things are running more efficiently, for example instead of waiting around in a court room for hours to be called for a 5-to-15-minute hearing, courts are now scheduling cases about every 15 minutes, reducing a lot of down time. Holding hearings via Zoom is saving time for attorneys and clients, which in turn is saving clients’ money.
While Zoom hearings can be more efficient, conducting court this way requires more preparation before the hearing. In criminal cases, plea agreements and plea petitions need to be reviewed and filled out before the hearing, whereas before, we might negotiate during all that previously mentioned downtime.
Other preparation that needs to be done and practiced, is how to use Zoom. In almost every hearing, there is one person who is not familiar with the application or website and cannot unmute themselves and communicate with the Judge. This frustrates the Judge and makes for a longer, more painful hearing. You never want to frustrate the Judge before you even have your hearing. Zoom is free for users to have calls or meetings under 45 minutes, so if you have a court hearing via Zoom, it is highly recommended to have a practice run beforehand. Call a friend, relative, or have a practice call with your attorney. Make sure that you know how to sign in, rename yourself, mute and unmute, and turn on and off your video.
Recently, a clerk from a local court administration remarked that bail hearings may never go back to “in person”, and that they may forever be done via Zoom. That means attorneys and clients alike need to be familiar and comfortable using the program.
If you are interested in discussing your case, your options, and your rights, please contact our office to set up a free consultation at 651-462-0206.