Litigation is still moving forward during the pandemic, albeit somewhat slower than normal. The Courts and attorneys are finding ways to move cases forward even though many courthouses are restricting visitors. Zoom, a somewhat unknown company prior to the pandemic, has now become the forefront of many industries’ drive to return somewhat to normalcy and law is no different.
Many courts have adopted the use of Zoom for hearings and trials. Depositions and mediations are also occurring through the use of Zoom. For those unfamiliar with technology, it may seem a bit intimidating; however, I have seen the process work rather seamlessly. In Clark and Floyd Counties, most judges are scheduling hearings via Zoom to limit the number of individuals in the courtroom. Our law firm has obtained HD web cameras for use during these hearings. However, additional technology is not needed. A smartphone can be used with the Zoom app to appear at a hearing or mediation. Clark County small claims matters are all being scheduled remotely, and the Court is issuing a list of free Wi-Fi locations within the county for those without access to internet.
During the first portion of the COVID pandemic, the courts were closed and both civil and criminal cases were put on hold except for true emergency matters. This has created a backlog of cases and the criminal cases are being dealt with first. Most courts are now referring matters to mediation before scheduling a civil trial date in hopes the case settles and the judges’ dockets do not get unnecessarily busy. Mediators are using Zoom to mediate cases and I have had several cases settle recently.
Lastly, I have even had a bench trial occur via Zoom. The host has the capability of adding all parties to one video chat or to place individuals in a separate waiting room. While it may not have the same feel of looking at a witness face-to-face, the process seems to still be effective.
I think it is easy to look around at some of our “new normal” and wonder what will happen whenever COVID is gone. There are many things that I do not think will go away when that happens. For example, people have learned that perhaps it is better to distance themselves and prevent some face-to-face interactions when possible. Video technology I believe will be another item that will still be a part of law moving forward after COVID. Many of the judges appear to enjoy using Zoom more for status conferences and pre-trials instead of using conferences. Additionally, the technology is a good way to prevent excessive traveling for hearings and depositions.