During the past several months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot of court proceedings have moved to video chatting programs or to telephone conferences. Court proceedings previously thought to be only effectively done in person are now routinely done remotely. This poses a question of how should litigants and attorneys prepare for such hearings? The short answer: thoroughly.


For years, I have handled cases throughout both Nebraska and Iowa, including Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, and Davenport, Iowa. Even pre-pandemic, I have routinely appeared before the courts via telephone or video chat to effectively present the arguments of my client when I cannot be there in person. The current situation has simply made that practice more widespread across the legal profession.


The current “zoom” culture has spawned memes and jokes about how people will attend meetings via zoom while in pajamas, or without pants on (no one will see), or how the participant will roll straight out of bed and onto an important work meeting done remotely. However, it is important to not fall into such pitfalls when it comes to the judicial process.


There is an expression in the legal field that you “only get one bite at the apple.” The essence behind that saying is that you do not often get another chance, so you have to be as prepared as possible the first time around. Just because a particular proceeding, evidentiary hearing, etc. is done via Zoom, WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or any other video chat software, it does not change the importance or potential lasting impact of the hearing.


The preparation that should go into a remote hearing (whether by teleconference or video chat) should obviously include the same preparations that you would do for an in-person proceeding. You still have to prepare your arguments, have exhibits read, prepare any needed witnesses, think about what you will wear, etc. However, there are now even more considerations. Some of the extra considerations include:

  1. Ensuring you have a good connection (internet and/or phone), so you can hear and be heard.
  2. Ensure you understand how to use the technology, and test ahead of time if possible. This includes how to mute / unmute yourself and how to “screen share” if that will be necessary.
  3. Submit any exhibits ahead of time to the court and other parties, based on the court’s current local rules concerning the same.

With the appropriate extra preparation, there is no reason why a remote proceeding in front of the court cannot go as smoothly or as successfully as in person. However, without the extra preparation it could be frustrating for all parties and not as successful. Talk to the experienced trial attorneys at Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, in our Omaha, Sioux City, or Sioux Falls offices regarding how best to prepare in your particular situation.


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