How to Work with Zoom in a Court Case?
Court hearings on Zoom during COVID-19 can be challenging if you have not mastered video conferencing. On the other hand, an effective Zoom hearing can also help attorneys and clients achieve a favorable outcome. Cases are won by adhering to courtroom protocols and by presenting effective arguments that influence judges to rule in your favor. In this respect, the COVID-19 crisis has not changed basic law or court procedures. Furthermore, Texas judges in Frisco and throughout Denton and Collin counties have the same expectations. They still expect attorneys and clients to dress appropriately and follow courtroom etiquette, even during Zoom hearings. What has changed is attorneys and clients must become proficient at using Zoom technology.
Guidelines for Court Hearings on Zoom During COVID-19
The following are some tips for clients and attorneys that can make your hearing more successful:
- Make sure all faces are well lit (witnesses and attorneys)
- Use a dark background and make the office background look presentable
- Practice with witnesses if they are unfamiliar with Zoom
- Dress in solid colors for the best appearance on camera
- Place the camera higher during the entire hearing so the judge can see everyone on the video call, not just the speaker
- Instruct clients that they are being watched during the entire hearing
- Mute whenever possible, so your comments are only heard when being questioned
- Women should wear more makeup than normal because cameras tend to wash out natural skin tones and features
- Sit still in front of the camera to avoid creating distractions
- Position the camera at a slight distance from your face, so the screen is not showing only your face, but also be sure to check your audio is loud enough to be heard easily
- Ask the judge about using an objection sign. At times if you are muted, your objection may not be heard.
- Main witnesses should have printed exhibits for easy reference
- Redact sensitive information on all documents that are used as an exhibit. The hearings are live on YouTube in most courts.
- Practice sharing documents and audio before the hearing with someone on the other side to make sure it can be heard and seen.
- Place exhibits on a computer screen with nothing else and clearly label each exhibit, for example, “Exhibit 1 Title of Document.” Ensure you can click easily on exhibits for reference.
- Consider getting an Ipevo Camera for exhibits (Elmo camera from www.ipevo.com). They create a more natural presentation than clicking between exhibits on the screen.
We Are Here to Help
We based the above tips on our own personal experience with using Zoom. However, more tips and suggestions for Zoom hearings are available at the Texas Judicial Branch webpage Court Coronavirus Information. The page contains links that explain Zoom's initial setup, linking Zoom to stream on YouTube, and other tips for successful hearings.