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Attorney Problems in the New Zoom Reality

By Jeanne E. Murphy posted 20 days ago


Because a poll of my advisory board on their pressing concerns has (so far) elicited comments only about Zoom, I went looking for how attorneys and courts are dealing with our new Zoom universe as discussed on Above the Law. Here is what I found.

Dress is now a substantial issue. One judge in Broward County felt the need to issue a letter telling attorneys to wear pants for court hearings, citing recent experiences of a shirtless man and a woman still in bed showing up for teleconferenced court hearings. These were attorneys. The pants are required presumably because everyone still needs to stand for the entrance of the judge.

Job applicants also are receiving the same advice regarding job interviews. Vanderbilt Law students were warned that interviewers were not above asking them to stand up to see whether the student was dressed in a way that indicated they were taking the interview seriously. Students were also urged to use the mute button whenever they were not talking to eliminate the sound of the lawn mower, the dog, or the random roommate.

One man who now must wish he had double-checked he was muted is an assistant state’s attorney in Connecticut. He was on a public call regarding his boss’s reappointment when he could be heard calling her a liar. It cost him a reprimand and two vacation days. His boss decided not to apply for reappointment.

Then there is the judge who is facing claims of violating the right to counsel and due process for freely using her mute button on an arguing attorney. The judge claimed the attorney was annoying and “obstructionist,” but others cite a history of the judge’s seeing improprieties that others do not. Whatever the conclusion turns out to be, it would take a person of some integrity to turn away from the power to silence a strident attorney with one little click.

Another judge who has some explaining to do is one who required a Bakersfield attorney who was suffering symptoms of COVID-19 and awaiting test results to show up in court. She did and later tested positive for the virus. While she wore a face mask and kept a social distance, she was concerned that she had exposed court staff and others to the virus. Her presence in court, even though ill with the virus, may be one reason that an attorney in Florida showed up for a federal sentencing hearing like this:

Not all heroes wear capes.

Stay safe out there.