In recent months, as courts have begun to increase in-person appearances while continuing virtual appearances, we have received questions from attorneys and litigants. Judge Doran, the Administrative Judge for the Seventh Judicial District, has maintained frequent communication with bar leaders in Monroe County and throughout the district. When he was asked about some of the new procedures, he provided us with the following information:
Here are some FAQs.
Q: How does my client join a Teams meeting?
A: Remote appearances are done using the Teams program. Litigants are given information in court, or sometimes by email or “snail mail,” about how to join Teams calendar appearances. But in case you or your client have lost or never received the instructions, you can obtain instructions from the OCA (The Office of Court Administration) website, or direct your client to the website, by providing them the following link: https://portal.nycourts.gov/knowledgebase/article/KA-01070/en-us This link is available to the public and includes instructions. This linked page includes another link to a page with instructions for accessing Teams. The instruction page is located at https://portal.nycourts.gov/knowledgebase/article/KA-01071/en-us . Each Teams invitation has, at the bottom a “Learn More” link. This link takes you to the instructions for access a proceeding via Teams.
Q: How do my client and I know if an appearance is remote or in-person in Rochester City Court?
A: Judges are given schedules in advance that indicate whether their calendars will be remote or in person. A copy of the current Rochester City Court schedule is pasted below. It is best to check this calendar to ensure that your understanding of the appearance is consistent with the calendar. If it is not, we recommend you contact the judge’s chambers and ask to confirm the nature of the appearance.
Q. My client does not want his home displayed during a virtual court appearance. And I don't want my home, as the attorney, on screen. What are our options?
A. The courts have evolving protocols for remote appearances. Judges want to ensure that the proceedings are consistent with the importance of subjects addressed and the forum in which they are addressed. That is why participants on a virtual proceeding are expected to dress as if they were in court. Whether you can blur the background or use a virtual background depends on the type of proceeding in which you are appearing.
There are two ways to alter a background in Teams, though not every device has the functionality. One way is to blur the background. The blur feature will blur the background, but not the person. The other is to use a stock virtual background. Again, not all devices will have these features.
During virtual trials and hearings, stock virtual backgrounds are not permitted. However, the background may be blurred except while a witness or participant is testifying. During all other proceedings, an “appropriate and professional background" may be used. An example of a suitable background is an office. An example of one that would likely not be deemed appropriate would be a beach background.
You can also learn more about the changes at the Hall of Justice and in the courts as they reopen in late May. Jon Getz interviews Hon. Craig Doran.
Click below to watch the interview on YouTube.