Courts are now opening up and allowing a range of civil, domestic relations, and criminal motions to be conducted remotely, by telephonic and video. New motions are being scheduled and motions that had previously been set for hearing may now be rescheduled to an earlier date.
Due to the unique nature of remote communications, the courts have developed additional rules and procedures that differ from traditional in-person hearings. In preparing for and conducting oneself in these meeting everyone needs to keep in mind that the Court's goal is to keep people safe but also to do their best to protect the rights of those appearing in court.
Thus, it is very important that we make certain that we adhere to the court’s procedures. Not following them can result in your hearing being terminated early, cancelled, and possibly dismissed.
Here are guidelines that the courts have adopted for remote hearings:
- Hearings are generally limited to 30 minutes (some may be scheduled for only 15 minutes) and unlike in-person hearings, the court will have very little tolerance to exceed the scheduled time limit. This means that when speaking, it is vital to be completely prepared. Statements and arguments should be concise and relevant to the points being made. Answers to questions should be spoken in short sentences. The more prepared the presentation is, the more likely all of the needed information will be given to the judge for their consideration.
- Be on time when you call into the court or when you are scheduled for a hearing. This is very important, as the court does not have the flexibility to allow much time to be late or switch your hearing around to later in the day.
- At the same time, beware that the court may be running late. If so, the court may give a different number to call, or they may call back. You need to flexible enough to manage that.
- Before the hearing begins, remove any background noises (children, pets, mechanical) from your surroundings. Excessive extraneous noise will not be allowed as it compromises the record that is being kept and could result in the hearing being cancelled or terminated.
- The Court will begin each hearing by taking role of the parties on the phone. No attorney or party may participate in the hearing other than remotely by video or telephone. There are no live/remote hybrid hearings.
- Wait to speak until the Court calls on you. Do not speak over others when they are talking. Do not worry, the Court will make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak.
- Identify yourself each time you speak. For example, you would say, “This is John Jones . . .”, and then say what you need to say.
- Talk slowly and directly into the phone.
- Do not use speaker phone - it reduces the quality of the communication and these call are being record in order to keep a record of the hearing.
- If you are not speaking, you need to put your phone on " MUTE".
- On video hearings, you should dress as you would going to court in person. This means looking clean, moderately dressed, and showing the court that you respect the process and consider the matter important.
While modern technology offers a unique opportunity for the Court to hear cases while complying with current health advisories, these new procedures also bring with them new expectations. If you are scheduled a remote hearing, you’ll want to take these rules into consideration in order to practice proper etiquette. If you have any additional questions or would like to get in touch with our firm regarding your legal matter, please do not hesitate to contact us via phone, our online chat system, or social media.