Zoom Court

Never let anyone tell you that news coverage is objective. Reporters have to be subjective to decide what’s important to tell you. Case in point: the stories last week about the Broward County, Florida judge complaining about how lawyers appeared on Zoom for hearings.

I admit that was a wonderful bit of journalism, but consider the context. The stuff about lawyer dishabille was lifted out of a memo by Judge Dennis Bailey describing the use of Zoom to conduct hearings. That’s not an uninteresting topic — particularly with the wave of Zoom litigation I’m predicting for the near future. There will soon be Zoom law practice groups at many of your firms.

There was no news coverage of that — just the lawyer clothing stuff (which I will get to later).

First, I want to note that the litigation has already begun. A proposed class action, for example, was filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles claiming that Facebook and LinkedIn eavesdrop on Zoom sessions.

There must be some seriously bored people at those companies.

Aside from security issues, other video conference hearing issues were brought up in the Florida memo.

“Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes, or simply out the window, and cannot see the judge is hollering ‘Stop! Stop!’ because an objection has been made and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge.”

There is some rich ground for comedy here. (See SNL.) And most likely rich ground for appellate courts. Imagine what transcripts are going to look like.

Can judges be reversed for not ruling on objections they never heard? Will there be malpractice suits for failing to turn on microphones? Can you properly assess the demeanor of a witness who’s sitting too close to the camera? What happens if the wi-fi goes down? Can you verify that the interruption wasn’t intentional?

So many fascinating issues.

And, yes, lawyer clothing is one of them. According to the memo, the author has “seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers.”

This sounds like Pornhub Court. Some lawyers just can’t hide their sex appeal.

Still, I think there’s an important innovation here: trial in bed. It’s relaxing and a good way to make sure you’re refreshed and alert in court.

I don’t think judges would complain.

On another Zoom judicial front, a Texas appellate justice last week in a tweet asked fellow judges for advice on setting up remote internships. I think the correct response is pretty obvious — you need the interns to figure out how to work Zoom.

Try this. Here’s another challenge for you for those of you bored at home. See if you can read the quoted single sentence below out loud without taking a breath.

I’m guessing — or at least I’m hoping — that this sentence from a recent legal malpractice lawsuit filed in Los Angeles by a prominent local law firm isn’t original, so I’m not sure who deserves credit for it. Its sure is impressive though.

“Plaintiff is informed and believes, and thereupon alleges, that each of the defendants designated herein as a DOE was and is negligently, carelessly, recklessly, unskillfully, unlawfully, tortiously, wantonly, wrongfully, illegally, or in some other actionable manner, responsible for the events and happenings hereinafter referred to, and thereby negligently, carelessly, recklessly, unskillfully, unlawfully, tortiously, wantonly, wrongfully and illegally proximately caused the hereinafter described injuries and damages to the plaintiff.”

You next challenge is to come up with adverbs they left out. Good luck.

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