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Tips for Remote Court Hearings


So you’ve been told by your lawyer or heard from the court that you have a remote hearing since they want to limit exposure to COVID-19 for all persons in the court system. But nobody asked you if you actually know what a remote hearing is? What do you do? What should you not do? These tips will help you, regardless of the type of court case you have. A remote hearing is scheduled.

Many courts are holding hearings for cases using a video conference system (Zoom is perhaps the most popular) or using a phone conference system. So you just need to be somewhere convenient. The remote hearing is done just as if everyone was in the court room. The judge is in charge. The lawyers speak on behalf of their clients, if you don’t have a lawyer, you speak for yourself.

1. Information to help with the remote hearing

You may be asked to request that you provide your contact information (phone number, and possibly an alternative phone number, email, etc.). The courts have all been putting out information on their sites about remote hearing during the pandemic, so it is useful to read those too.

2. Access to the Internet and or phone service

If you cannot get access to the Internet or you do not have phone service, it is important to let your lawyer know and if you do not have a lawyer, you need to let the court know immediately. Arrangements can possibly be made. Creativity is sometimes all that is needed. But communication is key.

3. Using Zoom and other video platforms

Most courts have basic information about how to use their specific platforms. You can also find information online on the specific sites if you need more help. Since there are so many sites offering video conferencing, it is always a very good idea to know what platform the specific court is using.

4. How exactly is a remote hearing done?

Remote hearings are conducted in the same way as if everyone was in the actual courtroom. The judge may make some changes in hearing procedure dependent on the circumstances as they arise. If the court proceedings are being recorded, there will be some indication. In any case, the judge will be making notes about what happened in the case and making decisions as the case continues. If you have a lawyer, the lawyer will guide you on when to speak and so on. If you don’t have a lawyer, you have to be aware of the basic rules, even though the judge will help you to an extent.

5. These help to make the hearing flow smoothly

Please use your real name, so don’t write a nickname in the slot provided, this is an official proceeding. If you are not the person speaking, mute yourself. Know where the the mute and unmute buttons are on the computer or phone. When you are going to speak, say your name as you take yourself off mute and then speaking about what you have to say. If participating by phone, do not use speakerphone the feedback might be distracting and surrounding noises will disturb the court proceedings.

6. Speak slowly and clearly

Everyone has to write, especially where there is no recording. Do not speak over or interrupt others who are speaking. This is how it would be in the courtroom, so the same thing applies. You must make verbal responses, so don’t nod or shake your head to answer questions. Do not make video or audio recordings or worse, share the proceedings. Some hearings are sensitive, such as concerning children, so it is important that you follow the court’s rules.

7. Wear Court Appropriate Clothes

While you do not have to wear a jacket, such as the lawyers and the judges, do not wear revealing clothes or sleepwear. Be careful what you say when the microphone is not muted. Unless you are in a breakout room, assume everyone can hear you. You do not want to be caught saying something unkind about others in the court hearing or talking about strategy with your lawyer. so be careful.

8. Call in or log in early.

Remember that turning on your phone or computer, navigating to a web page, and starting a video conference or getting a call set up may take longer than you expect. It will make you less nervous about the hearing if you are all organized and ready before the judge comes on the call or the video. If you are representing yourself, make a list of what you want to tell or ask the judge and keep your paperwork organized. Being organized helps you to tell your story, because if the judge doesn’t hear it he or she can’t use it to decide the case.

9. Submitting your evidence -telling your story

If possible, send your evidence to the court and any opposing parties before the hearing. The court has strict procedures relating to when documents that will be used as evidence has to get there. Since COVID-19, the courts have made many decisions about the way in which everything is done. Please check their websites carefully. At the hearing, you must lay a foundation for each piece of evidence that you want the court to consider and then ask that it be moved into evidence. If you cannot lay that foundation – meaning why that thing is important to your case, it may not be put in as evidence, so you need to be very careful here.

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