With the specter of the CCP virus hovering over our open courtrooms these days, districts here in California have opted to proceed with hearings and trials using internet media such as Zoom or Microsoft Meetings. I was recently called to testify as an expert witness in just such a trial. I found that a whole new world of trial procedures has been born.
Here’s a little behind the scenes look into my first virtual courtroom experience:
The Normal Courtroom Routine
From my perspective, a normal routine for court begins with a last-minute check. I want to make certain I have my court charts in order, getting dressed in proper courtroom attire, leaving in plenty of time to arrive at the courthouse, finding a parking place, and walking to the courtroom so I can meet up with my client before I am scheduled to be called. Throughout this process, the case details are pulsing through my thoughts as I review the key elements of my testimony.
After that, I find a seat in the hall and wait to be called into the courtroom. It is rare when I am called right away, so I bring a cushion with me because the hallway benches can be quite hard and uncomfortable after minutes or hours of waiting.
The Virtual Courtroom Routine
I had no preconceptions about my first virtual trial experience, so this one seemed to run smoothly. The proceedings were held in my attorney/client’s office on his laptop. I didn’t bring any extra materials with me to share with the court, I brought a jacket to wear for the camera, and I parked my car just outside his front door. The receptionist met me and offered me coffee and a comfortable chair. So far, so good.
I was the second witness of the day. In this matter, the first witness laid the groundwork for my testimony, so I only waited for half an hour. Just long enough to finish my coffee and revisit the evidence in my file folder one more time. I was invited into the office and sat next to my attorney/client, aligning ourselves so the judge could see us both.
How the Proceedings Differed
The proceedings were predictable, but from my perspective, lacked the decorum of a real courtroom. Maybe it’s because I could not read the judge’s face from behind his mask as he listened to my testimony. Or maybe I just missed the human interaction in a wood-lined room of the building representing order and respect for the law. In any event, justice was served in this matter. And in the process, the plaintiff saved my time and his money.
If you’d like to hear more of my pros and cons of my virtual courtroom experience, be sure to check out my recent blog post!
What Do I Prefer?
It was a win-win this time. I particularly like that the internet encourages efficiency and provides a means for participants to have their day in court suffering less financial and scheduling hardships. Perhaps some of the more mundane parts of courtroom activities would be better off held in the virtual for this reason. But this expert likes to experience the humanness of the trial process. A transcript is fine, a video better, but nothing compares to the intimate experience between people working together to solve problems face-to-face.
Would you like to hear more about my experience? Contact Forensic Document Examiner Linda Mitchell at Forensic QDE Lab today!