News & Opinion | December 22, 2020 11:32 am

Inside the Wild World of Virtual Court Hearings

More people than you'd expect are showing up to their hearings naked

virtual court hearing
Judge Nikolaus Lange demonstrates a hearing via webcam in a courtroom at the Palace of Justice.
Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images

As we all adjusted this year to the world of working remotely, we quickly became all too familiar with certain types of Zoom mishaps, like someone forgetting to mute themselves or not realizing their camera was on. Despite a few high-profile exceptions, it was mostly harmless. But when you’re attending virtual court and awaiting judgement, that bad Zoom etiquette can carry serious consequences.

A new piece in USA Today has some horror stories from judges and attorneys about the crazy behavior they’ve witnessed during online court hearings. (There’s a lot more courtroom nudity than you’d expect in non-pandemic times.) The following are some of the highlights:

  • A woman in Kentucky showed up naked for her virtual eviction hearing
  • One client attended a mediation hearing drinking a beer
  • A father attended a parental rights termination hearing shirtless in bed
  • One woman attended a hearing poolside in a bikini
  • An attorney smoked a cigar during a remote probate hearing
  • Another lawyer fell asleep in court and snored through the entire hearing
  • A woman who was unaware that her camera was on appeared naked and with her hair in curlers
  • A client who had been in a car accident attended their Zoom hearing while driving
  • In Florida, a female attorney appeared while still under the covers of her bed, and a male attorney appeared shirtless

Still, having to conduct hearings remotely isn’t all bad. District Judge Stephanie Pearce Burke told the publication that the remote hearings have been particularly helpful in mental health cases.

“It’s a more compassionate way of handling those dockets, and I expect we will continue to utilize remote platforms in those cases even after COVID restrictions are lifted,” she said.

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