Virtual Court Putting Litigants at a Disadvantage?


The advent of modern technology – meanwhile, Zoom and its social media platform – have allowed American courts to operate even when people are imprisoned for a coronavirus.

This is definitely a good thing. But is there a wrong?

Now that we have a few months left before the actual courts, it is probably time to ask a question: How are they doing?

The answer, according to the judges and magistrates, is very mixed.

Advantages of Virtual Court

On the positive side, technological advances have made the courts more efficient. In addition, many lawyers and judges agree that this helps to improve performance in some areas.

“Active listening is … revealing a special value to judges,” the National Center for State Courts said, for example, in a recent report. “Lawyers can deal with most cases on a day when they do not have to travel between courts and tribunals. Judges (when comfortable with a meeting) can deal with more cases per day which results in fewer cases.”

The NCSC also found that conference platforms offer free (or inexpensive) forms that judges can easily use to review the evidence in writing their decisions.

In addition, some judges have stated that they have reduced the amount of litigation the courts have had.

Defects of Virtual Court

But lawyers and prosecutors also mention a number of issues.

Reporting on real courts, web page CNET found that people facing immigration charges often fail to have witnesses to prove them.

Anna Byers, attorney general for the American Friends Service Committee, told CNET, “Before the epidemic, witnesses are allowed to appear in court as long as they have an ID. After the epidemic, the court is closed to everyone except court staff.”

The courts do not allow witnesses, they said, because their identities cannot be verified.

For defendants, the situation is the same.

Under the verdict, the defendants have the right to meet witnesses against them. Does video listening meet these requirements?

“Many would argue that his appearance, as long as the person is hearing, can be seen, can be strongly questioned on behalf of the accused,” Matt Wiese, attorney general for Marquette County, Michigan, told the newsletter. Michigan Live. “And there are those who say no, it has to be face-to-face.”

Defendants who appear in real courts often live in prisons, places that are not conducive to good visibility.

Clear-cut courts also make it difficult for lawyers and clients to communicate informally in meetings.

Technical Failures

Remote procrastinators can be distracted by malicious tools, weak internet connection, they do not know how to use video cameras and lighting. Obviously, such boundaries can be dangerous.

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project recently reviewed the issue and released it full report which focuses on the professionalism of transparent courts and their impact on litigation and justice.

STOP said: “Most of the protesters and defendants do not have the hardware and / or the internet to participate,” STOP said. , potential fraud, as well as the dangers of modified audio / video recordings of online courts. “

STOP identified several challenges:

  • Legal / customer interviews. How safe are the “living rooms” that Zoom claims to hold counseling / client meetings?
  • Transfer of password files. How should evidence be presented, verified, and kept in the real courts?
  • Errors in professional use. Issues related to communication and errors in sharing well-known information can confuse what is happening.

Loss of ‘Human Touch’

Anyone who has gone to court knows that it is like a theater. There are usually two sides to the case, and the boundary between the parties is best shown in a slightly lower area than the judge sitting in the middle of the back. There are many parties, many questions and answers. Facial expressions, body language, and appearance may be crucial in determining the outcome of a lawsuit.

Many of them are missing out on real tests.

“In court, it’s an open space and physical communication is very important and diversity is very important,” Alabama attorney Gar Blume told the website. Appeal. Should it be? Should it be down? Should it be set aside? How do we adjust the camera? ‘

Blume, who has been in the play since 1978, concluded, “For 42 years it has been a theater, and now it is a movie.”

And it takes others to get used to it.

Related:

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