It’s been almost two years now after the first COVID-19 was reported in the US and it is impossible to list all the ways the virus has changed our lives. Many of us have had to rethink how we now go about our daily lives and what our real priorities are.
COVID-19 has had a big impact on the judicial system, especially the court room. While for many the shutdown of court rooms and the switch to virtual court has been a struggle, there have been many positives. In the work that Deitchle+Simone Law Firm does, attending court via zoom has been a very positive one. It means that more clients can access the judicial system. Clients no longer need take an entire day off work to sit around and wait for what may only be a 10-minute hearing. There is no need for long commutes to the courthouse and the expense of paying for parking. For attorneys, it means the ability to expand the counties that we practice in as we can be on zoom in multiple court rooms in one day.
Even though virtual court has been around for a while now, it is still important to remember that although you may be sitting in your kitchen while you are in court, you still must abide by court etiquette.
Tip No. 1: Technology – make sure your technology works. Here at Deitchle+Simone we like to do a run through virtually with our clients before our court date. That gives our clients the opportunity to practice what it might be like on the day. It’s important that we know your technology works and that you are comfortable using it. When logging into your hearing, make sure your display name is your first and last name.
Tip No. 2: What you wear – again, just because you are sitting at home, it doesn’t mean that you should be wearing your workout clothes or pajamas. You want to make an impression on the court and that is done by dressing smart. Clients don’t have to wear suits like attorneys do, but smart, neat clothing is expected.
Tip No. 3: Distractions – it’s important that you can focus on what is happening at your hearing. You don’t want anybody else in the room with you, and preferably no pets if you can avoid it, and definitely no children. While you are not speaking, mute yourself so that if there happens to be any background noise going on, nobody else can hear it. While there are many virtual backgrounds available to zoom users, remember that a judge and the other parties don’t want to be distracted by what is going on behind you. Make sure your background looks professional.
Tip No. 4: Respect – remember, you are still in the court room. Although you may feel more confident attending court from the comfort of your own home, that doesn’t mean that you can sit and eat your breakfast, have a cigarette or be texting on your phone. You should always address the judge as “Your Honor,” and should not speak unless a question has been directed to you. It’s also a good idea to try and keep a calm and neutral facial expression, even if you don’t agree with what is being said. Body language is still very important in a virtual hearing.
Tip No. 5: Look into the camera – while it may feel a bit weird at first to be looking at yourself on screen, it’s important that you look into the camera. Court reporters are still making a record, so they often like to be able to see your face from the front when you are speaking. With zoom, only one person can speak at a time so it’s vital that you wait for the person directing a question to you to complete what they are saying. Trust us when we say that court reporters have no problem telling even attorneys off if we are not speaking clearly and into the camera, of if we speak over somebody.
Tip No. 6: Stay seated – while the temptation can be there to get up and pace around your house because you are anxious or nervous, this is extremely distracting for the other participants and especially the judge. Make sure you are sitting in one spot in your house. Remember, if you were in the actual courtroom you would not be able to get up and move around as you please, and you definitely cannot be driving.
If you are unsure how to prepare for your virtual hearing, please reach out to us for any further tips and questions.
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