Only a few good things came to fruition from the Covid 19 Pandemic, but outfitting the legal system to operate remotely is undoubtedly one of them. Before 2020, there may have been instances of court and legal proceedings occurring remotely—but they were scarce. Almost always, if you were involved in a legal matter, you were required to appear in court in person.
However, according to Maine administrative order JB-21-05, many trial court proceedings can be conducted remotely. Practically speaking, the remote capabilities can allow you to pursue a civil lawsuit without having to step foot in a courtroom.
If you are the victim of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing and are considering pursuing legal action, contact us to schedule a remote consultation at your convenience.
While hiring an attorney to file a lawsuit is not required, we always recommend having the assistance of experienced legal counsel. Initiating a case can be complex and challenging for someone who does not do it daily. That said, meeting with lawyers can be intimidating, even if you are seeking their help.
Some individuals may feel dissuaded by the daunting task of traveling to a lawyer’s office. Whether you live far away or have other reasons for preferring not to leave your home, we understand and are happy to offer Zoom meetings and consultations. With Mann Law, you can file your lawsuit without leaving your house.
If you prefer your court proceedings to be held via telephone or video, there are specific steps you must take.
To request your court proceeding be held remotely via Zoom, you must file a Motion for Alternative Format for Court Proceeding with the clerk’s office in advance. Your attorney will draft and file this motion and all necessary documentation.
As attorneys in the post-Covid era, we are familiar with the mechanics of Zoom proceedings. However, if Zoom technology is something you have yet to use or encounter, you may feel like a fish out of water. Don’t worry. We will walk you through Zoom basics and what to expect.
First, you must access a device with a working internet connection that is compatible with Zoom. The process for checking capability can differ depending on the device type (i.e., Windows or Mac). You can consult the Zoom website for a step-by-step guide.
The Maine judicial branch website also provides links to three helpful documents that can assist you in preparing for your remote proceeding.
For a civil lawsuit, the first two documents will be pertinent and helpful to your case. We can discuss what to expect and provide valuable tips upon meeting with one of our attorneys.
If you are unfamiliar with Zoom, familiarizing yourself with its features ahead of time can be helpful. Below are some key features and what you need to know about them.
There are several ways to join a Zoom meeting initially. However, you will typically receive an emailed link for court proceedings ahead of the scheduled appearance. The email will include information such as meeting ID and password, which you can type into the Zoom app or web browser. The email usually contains a direct link that says, “Click here to join the Zoom meeting.”
It will then prompt you to decide whether to allow the camera/video feature and enable access to your microphone. You will want to choose “yes” for both of these as the court typically wants to see you on video rather than only hearing audio.
You can test this entire process to ensure your internet connection is up to speed and your camera and microphone function correctly.
During remote court proceedings, it is common to encounter two types of “rooms”—a waiting room and a breakout room.
When you first join a Zoom meeting, you will likely be placed in a waiting room. While in the waiting room, the host, usually court staff, will be notified that you are on the Zoom call. Once they are ready to proceed, they will allow you into the main room, where you may see court staff, a judge, your attorney, and any other parties to the case.
A breakout room is slightly different. These are used in several scenarios, but one of the most common uses is during settlement negotiations and mediation. For instance, the court staff will place one party in a breakout room with a mediator to hear their side of the story, their position, and their position on a possible settlement. Breakout rooms ensure that each party can speak freely without their adversary present.
Breakout rooms can also be used to speak with your attorney privately during court proceedings.
If court staff is going to move you into a breakout room, a prompt will appear on your screen asking if you would like to join the breakout room. Once you click yes, you will be automatically moved. You will generally be moved back into the main proceeding or courtroom after completing your time in a breakout room.
As with most technology, zoom sometimes has hiccups, and you may encounter a situation where your video or audio is not working. In that case, there are specific troubleshooting steps you can take to try and figure out what is causing the issue. The court staff is also helpful in troubleshooting why your Zoom features might not be working correctly.
If your case does not settle, it will proceed to trial. Until now, conferences, mediations, motion hearings, and more have likely been conducted remotely. With the court’s permission, your trial can also continue remotely. It may surprise you to learn that Zoom trials move in almost the same manner as in-person trials.
If you are seeking a trial by jury, the juror selection will occur before your trial starts. When your trial begins, the jurors will be present on the Zoom proceedings just as they would if physically sitting in the courtroom. Other participants will include the judge, yourself, your attorney, your adversary, their attorney, and necessary court staff, including a stenographer and clerk.
Generally, all parties will mute their microphones unless they are speaking to ensure minimal interruptions and background noise.
The proceedings will commence in the same manner. Typically, the trial proceedings go as follows:
Once the attorneys are finished presenting their respective cases, the judge will give the jurors instructions and send them off to deliberate. The parties will not be present at this time, and the jurors will deliberate privately.
Once the jury reaches a verdict—which could take hours, days, or even weeks—all parties will again join the virtual courtroom to hear the verdict announced.
Contact us anytime to learn more about what you can expect during a Zoom trial proceeding. We are happy to answer your questions and calm your worries.
In addition to trial and court proceedings, Zoom has proven to be a helpful tool for depositions.
Depositions are a vital tool in most lawsuits, and almost always, the plaintiff in a civil case will be deposed at some point. A deposition is conducted under oath, and each party can question the witness.
Before 2020, depositions almost always took place in an attorney’s office (e.g., the plaintiff or defendant’s lawyer’s office). However, as Zoom became more prevalent in the courtroom, it became a more popular way to conduct depositions. Zoom has also been a useful application for mediation, arbitration, consultations, general discussions, and negotiations.
If you are contemplating filing a lawsuit but are nervous about sitting down for an in-person deposition, don’t fret. We can request any necessary deposition be conducted via Zoom so that you may remain in the comfort of your home or office.
Mann Law has been advocating for those injured at the hands of someone else for nearly two decades. We understand how devastating an accident can be to your life and family. You deserve compensation to help rebuild your life.
Lawsuits and court proceedings can be nerve-wracking, but with remote options available, the uncertainty and fear of stepping into a courthouse should not keep you from seeking justice. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.