Thursday, March 12, 2020

Zoom/Skype/Etc. Oral Arguments in Appellate Cases?

By Eugene Volokh - March 11, 2020 at 11:33PM

Do any of you know whether any courts are trying to do this because of coronavirus, or have been trying to do it more broadly? I would think it should be nearly trivial to do, with no extra hardware expense or technical development: Just have the judges and the parties sign on to a Zoom session (or some such video system), and record the video for prompt posting on the court's web site, which many courts already do. (The publicly available video recording would, I think, satisfy any requirement of public access to the arguments.)

This would be good for public health these days, especially since it will cut down required airplane travel for lawyers, judges, and law clerks. (In many courts, especially federal circuit courts, many judges' chambers are far from where the arguments take place.) And of course it will save judges' and lawyers' time, and thus money for clients.

Perhaps this isn't good for trials, where physical presence may be an important part of cross-examination, arguing to the jury, and the like; but it should be just fine for appellate argument, and for legal argument in trial courts as well. Might this outbreak be a good opportunity for experimenting with this? Or are there some barriers, other than tradition (to be sure, always an important matter with the judiciary), that I'm missing?

 


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