Guidelines for Appearing in Court via Zoom
It goes without saying that Zoom has overtaken our lives. While it would have been unfathomable that court appearances would take place over a digital platform that few people were aware of prior to the spring of 2020, the reality is that our brave new world is here. Zoom is the new normal, and legal proceedings are no different.
In the state of Michigan, many court proceedings are still taking place over Zoom, most notably family court or probate hearings. If you are required to appear at a virtual hearing, there are a few things you should probably be aware of before you log in. Follow these simple guidelines before your camera and microphone are turned on, and you can easily avoid a comical or embarrassing mishap.
Many people have struggled to adjust to Zoom meetings of all kinds due to the fact that they feel they are expected to behave in a professional manner in a situation that is all out of context. After all, you’re at home, with your coffeemaker, your cat, and your couch right beside you.
However, you are still expected to treat a virtual hearing as though it is a serious matter. Dress formally, ensure your background is clear of distractions, and leave the cutesy coffee mugs in the cupboard. Keep your pets in another room if you feel they will be a distraction.
Show up slightly ahead of time, with a clear understanding of how Zoom operates. Be sure your device is charged, test your Internet connection, and double-check your camera and mic before jumping from the “waiting room” to the main Zoom call. Make sure you have all the required paperwork in front of you, so you won’t need to scramble to find it in the middle of the call.
Remember that, just like an in-person court hearing would be, this hearing is live, and everything you say will be recorded. Everything will be captured, encompassed in court records, and viewed by the other members of the Zoom call. Don’t speak out of turn and weigh your words carefully.
While a virtual courtroom hearing might feel bizarre to those who grew up in the pre-Internet age, it is possible to survive a Zoom hearing without incident. For the duration of the call, imagine that you are in a courtroom setting and block out any at-home distractions.
Plenty of virtual hearings have taken place in Grand Rapids. Law firms, just like our clients, are adjusting to this new normal and learning along with you.