By Crystal Pacheco
As we’ve mentioned in an earlier blog article, Bexar County has shifted to doing court hearings via Zoom. Most people are aware of what Zoom is by now, but just to make sure we’re all on the same page, it’s a video conferencing platform that you can use on a web browser or a smartphone app to meet in real time. Provided you turn your camera and microphone on, it allows you to be seen and heard and to see and hear others.
It’s become an invaluable tool for courts, educators, and businesses during this era of social distancing, because it allows people to meet and collaborate during this time when we all must stay in our homes. But, as many of you are likely experiencing, it can sometimes be challenging to separate your home as a place where you relax, unwind, and wear what you want from a home that substitutes as your place of work.
There was an incredible story earlier this week from the Miami Herald, in which a Broward County judge had to remind lawyers — lawyers! — to show proper decorum in his Zoom courtroom. As the paper reporter, he wrote in a letter posted on a bar association website:
It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up [the fact that] you’re poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.
In next week’s article, we’ll go more into depth on how to dress and how to interact with your lawyer when you’re attending court online. But the important thing to remember is that the same rules that apply in court, especially when it comes to respect for the judge, apply in court via Zoom.
We’re learning things along the way. Initially, lawyers would exchange evidence when a courtroom was first opening up on Zoom, and now, we’re doing it even earlier in the interest of moving the process along. There are some technical difficulties that can cause some delays, and I can sense that’s adding to the frustration that some judges are feeling in Zoom court moving slower than an in-person courtroom proceeding.
But the important bottom line here is that cases are on the docket and they are moving through — not nearly with the same speed than if we were physically at the courthouse, but they are moving. So, if you’re soon due to go to court to settle your divorce, modify your decree, or hear a different family law matter, know that it might be through an online platform, and it might take a little longer to get on the docket than you thought it would, but that it will happen.