Earlier in the COVID-19 tempest we wrote about many of the things our firm has been able to do to keep cases moving forward - using Zoom (mostly) and other videoconferencing platforms to meet with clients, take and defend depositions, mediate and arbitrate cases, and attend court hearings.
We'll now add one more to the list, having completed our first trial held entirely on Zoom. Although our local courts have been handling a smattering of in-person jury trials, those have been few and far between since COVID hit. However, attorney Scott Staples had the opportunity recently to try a case in federal court to a judge (called a “bench trial”, i.e., no jury).
The procedures used by the court were somewhat novel, but necessary due to the pandemic. The only people in the courtroom were the judge, the judicial assistant, and a court reporter. The attorneys were in their respective offices sitting in front of computers. Our client came to our office to sit in front of a computer in a separate room from Scott. Medical witnesses that had not been put on video ahead of the trial testified from their offices or homes. Exhibits discussed with witnesses were pulled up on the attorney's computer and shared with all other participants on their screens.
Trial by Zoom is not what any of us were trained for, and we can't wait to get back in front of judges and juries in-person when it's safe to do so. But making the best of a bad situation and pushing a case forward to resolution* using the tools available to us is something we're quite proud of.
*What was the result, you may ask? As of this writing we don't know yet. Unlike a jury, which deliberates for only hours or days because they have to get back to their lives, a judge deciding a case can take as much time as needed to come to a conclusion.