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Video Conferencing Courtroom Etiquette – Three Simple Steps

This Blog was written by Emily Racine, Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management

These days we are all finding creative ways of adapting our lives to the new normal. COVID-19 has changed the landscape of all businesses, including the legal profession. With social distancing rules in place, and likely to continue into the foreseeable future, the legal profession has, like most businesses, turned to online video conferencing and audio conferencing services in order to provide access to justice.

Unfortunately, this has led to some embarrassing mishaps – and some hilarious stories.

A Florida Judge has had to remind the barristers in his jurisdiction that online court hearings deserve more formality than just a phone call. This occurred after one male lawyer appeared to argue a case without wearing a shirt and one female lawyer made an appearance while still in bed.

During a High Court hearing in one London district, the judge stopped the hearing when an intruder (a French bulldog named Willow) made a sudden appearance on screen. While this intruder was met with chuckles, it does underscore the importance and difficulty of hoping that other members of your household cooperate with your court appearance schedule.

Late-night show hosts had a blast reporting a story about the US Supreme Court last week.  Now that the US Supreme Court has had its first historic hearing by conference call, they, too, are not immune to mishaps. During the hearing, one participant forgot to mute their microphone when he or she answered the call of nature. The audible toilet flush interrupted the oral arguments of one of the lawyers who, like a true professional, continued on smoothly. While it is unclear where the flushing sound originated, it was certainly a first for the highest court in America.

So while the new normal persists and we are all forced to adapt our professions to the rules of social distancing, here are some things to remember when participating in courtroom hearings by video or conference call. Step one – get out of bed; Step two – wear a shirt; and step three – remember to mute your microphone.

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