Although some courts are moving toward holding more appearances in person, certain court appearances will likely continue to be held remotely for some time to come. While the future of court system operations remains uncertain and will continue to evolve over time, below are some resources to improve your remote hearing experience:
COVID-19 Court UpdatesThe PLF website has a page on how to access the most recent court updates relating to COVID-19. You can also find a list of all current statewide judicial orders and information regarding COVID-19 on the Oregon Judicial Department (OJD) website.
OJD ResourcesThe OJD has created a separate page on their website with information about remote hearings. In addition to general information, you can choose the location where you will be appearing and you will be redirected to a court-specific web page with information on remote hearings in that court. They have also created an attorney guide to remote hearings. This document includes helpful information such as necessary audio and video capabilities and how to properly dress and compose yourself. Also see the quick reference guide for additional information about how to prepare for and what to expect during remote hearings.
Cisco WebexOregon state courts use the Webex videoconferencing platform to host remote hearings. Before joining a Webex hearing, go to the company’s test page to verify you have proper audio and video connectivity. The OJD has created several YouTube videos walking you through how to use this platform:
- Joining a remote hearing using WebEx
- Litigant etiquette and protocol
- Troubleshooting common issues
- Participating in breakout sessions - A breakout session may be necessary if attorneys or other participants need to speak with each other privately during the hearing.
- Sharing exhibits
- Changing your background
Product OptionsThe pandemic has forced many of us to adapt our work setting to accommodate videoconferencing capabilities. Yet even if you feel comfortable navigating the platform, your audio/video setup may not be ideal. Below are some resources to consider:
- Internet connection. It is important to have a strong and stable internet connection when participating in remote hearings. Ideally, you should avoid using a WiFi connection, especially if others are using it simultaneously. If you can’t connect to the internet directly, you still have several options for strengthening your WiFi connection. See my recent blog post for more information.
- Lighting. There are always options for improving lighting when using a videoconferencing platform. Some programs allow for adjustments within the program itself, but that may not be enough depending on the lighting in the room. Consider using an adjustable LED light attached to your computer. A simple Google search will yield many additional lighting products made specifically for videoconferencing.
- Webcam. If your device isn’t equipped with a built-in webcam or you aren’t happy with the video quality, many options exist for webcams. For example, the Logitech Pro Webcam contains a privacy shutter. And the Vitade PC Webcam has built-in lighting.
- Headphones equipped with a microphone. The OJD encourages remote hearing participants to use headphones equipped with a microphone, if possible. This enables judges and other participants to hear you more clearly and helps reduce background noise and echoing. To avoid large headsets and wires, the Poly Voyager Bluetooth headset and Apple AirPods Pro are more compact options to consider.
- Phone and tablet holders. Juggling multiple devices while participating in a videoconference ─ such as your laptop for the main connection and your phone or tablet for notes or exhibits ─ can be a frustrating challenge. Consider purchasing an adjustable tablet holder to place on your desk for easier access and visibility. The Lamicall Gooseneck and UGREEN tablet holders were both recommended at ABA TECHSHOW this year. Phone holder options include the Tryone Gooseneck or UGREEN.
Future of Remote HearingsChief Justice Martha Walters encourages attorneys to provide courts with feedback about ways to improve remote hearings, especially since it has become clear that these types of hearings will continue into the foreseeable future. Contact the presiding judge of the specific court in which you are appearing if you have suggestions for improvement.
- Trials in the Time of COVID: A Practitioner’s Perspective ─ Multnomah Bar Association, January 19, 2021
- A Solo & Small Firm Workshop: Who’s Zoomin’ Who? (Professionalism in the Zoom Environment) ─ Multnomah Bar Association, December 8, 2020
- Remote Advocacy: Representing Your Client During the COVID-19 Pandemic ─ National Institute for Trial Advocacy
- Remote Advocacy 2.0: A Follow-up Q&A on Representing Your Client During the COVID-19 Pandemic ─ National Institute for Trial Advocacy
- PLF Resources