5 Considerations for Virtual Court Hearings (Plus Tips for Quality Control)

Author: Gina Cunsolo

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As the Omicron variant continues to surge, thousands of people are being forced to quarantine, affecting nearly every sector of life. Education, business, healthcare, and government are all reverting much of their operations from in-person back to virtual. The courtroom is not exempt from this motion.

 

Though virtual courtroom hearings first became more widespread in March 2020, there’s still a whirlwind of questions surrounding these hearings. Considering the sensitive nature of conversation and the long list of legalities coincided with every court hearing, it’s difficult to know exactly how the various aspects of these kinds of interactions can successfully transfer into a virtual environment. Let’s dig into your most frequently asked questions regarding virtual court hearings.

 

1. How Do You Prepare for a Virtual Hearing?

        

Before the virtual trial or hearing, it is important to ensure that your clients are comfortable using the technology and are aware of what’s expected of them. The best way to prepare you and your clients is to perform a test run alone with them a day or two before the actual trial. Walk them through how to join the Zoom meeting, where the mute button is, and have them test their Internet connection. You don’t want the judge isn’t to get distracted by people entering and leaving the Zoom room.

 

Here’s another tip: even though you and your clients will be attending the Zoom hearing from either the living room, the office, or even the bedroom, participants should simply imagine they are in the courtroom and act accordingly. In other words, pay attention to your background. Are there any provocative or distracting images behind you? Best to remove those for the virtual court hearing. Additionally, refrain from eating or moving around - and remember, you’re on camera! Remind your clients to maintain an awareness of their appearance at all times throughout the hearing.

 

2. How Can I Watch Court Hearings Online?

 

If it’s public, then you can typically find the information (including the agenda, the date and time, and the Zoom link) listed on your local government’s website. 

 

3. Are Virtual Hearings Public?

 

Depending on which state and city you live in, many virtual hearings are made available to the public. Check your local government’s website for more information. Usually, the government website will list the following: a schedule of public hearings, instructions on how to join, an agenda for the meeting, a document to sign up to speak, a contact for people to send a written testimony, and a YouTube link where the recording will be posted. Last but not least, the Zoom link to join should also be posted on the same page!

 

4. What Are Best Practices for Zoom Court Hearings?

 

There are many best practices for Zoom court hearings. First, It is important for you to properly identify participants at the start of the Zoom hearing, stating their name and title. We also recommend each participant list their name in the Zoom bar when they join, so it is clear who is involved to everyone. 

 

Additionally, there are several Zoom Best Practices that all participants should follow, regardless if it’s a virtual business meeting or a virtual courtroom hearing. For example, coach your client to utilize the “raise hand” function of the Zoom application when they would like to speak during the hearing. It is also imperative that the participants do not speak over another person, unless making a lawful objection. Furthermore, it’s best to pause a few seconds before speaking when responding to a participant, in case there is a lag on the other end and the other person is still speaking.

 

It’s also important to maintain a professional appearance on camera and provide the judge with a balanced audio and visual experience. We suggest removing any backlight. Instead, sit near a window so the natural light can illuminate your face. If the hearing is at nighttime, you can use a desk lamp or some other source of light in front of you.

 

Don’t forget high-quality audio! For virtual Zoom hearings, it’s crucial that the judge can hear you and your clients clearly, without any distracting background noise. We recommend using a personal Bluetooth speakerphone like the YVC-330. Not only does the YVC-330 personal Bluetooth speakerphone feature SoundCap technology, reducing background noise, but it is also Zoom-certified - making it the perfect choice for your Zoom hearings.

 

5. What if I Don’t Have Internet or Phone Access?

 

If you or your client do not have Internet or phone access, we suggest you contact your case’s judge immediately so the court system can provide you with an alternative experience. More than likely, the court will either postpone your hearing, or make arrangements for you to use public technology in a different space to allow you to participate in your hearing.

 

However you prepare for Zoom court hearings, one thing’s for sure: Yamaha Unified Communications offers a wide variety of conferencing tools that can enhance any virtual meeting. If you have questions, reach out to the experts at Yamaha UC!