Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the need to employ social distancing, and as a result of several states mandating lockdown orders of one form or another, many jurisdictions in the United States are turning to conducting court hearings via remote access and videoconferencing to keep the wheels of the court system turning.

From the National Center for State Courts (NCSC):

“State courts are using video technology to conduct hearings remotely, but the state court administrators and chief justices who serve on CCJ-COSCA’s Pandemic Rapid Response Team (RRT) urge more courts to use it because, they say, it will help courts continue to provide access to justice—and because it will be around long after the pandemic ends.

To date, four states and Puerto Rico have mandated that their courts implement virtual hearings while 30 other states and Washington, D.C., urge their courts to use them. As of Friday afternoon, Texas has conducted 3,429 proceedings with 26,513 participants.

New York, which began using video technology last month to conduct essential court proceedings, continues to give more of its state courts the ability to do that. Starting today, the Eighth and Ninth Judicial Districts – in the southeast and northwest parts of the state — began virtual court operations. “We are now providing the ability for all court users to appear remotely, thereby reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus,” said Kathie Davidson, Ninth Judicial District administrative judge.

In Miami Dade Circuit Court, criminal court judges are conducting remote hearings. In a recent hearing to determine if a defendant should be allowed to await trial at his home, only the judge and defense attorney were in the courtroom. The defendant attended from a jail conference room, the prosecutor from his back patio, the lead detective from his parked police SUV and the alleged victim from her home, her face obscured.”

If you are a legal professional or court officer and are looking for more guidance on how to proceed more safely and efficiently during this emergency, you can find a good resource of information at the NCSC’s “Coronavirus and the Courts” website HERE.

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