James Bostwick, California personal injury lawyer and partner at Bostwick & Peterson, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle in an April 6th, 2020 article titled: “Coronavirus Pandemic: Courts adopt virtual, remote proceedings."
The social distancing mandates resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, have forced the legal system to innovate and experiment with virtual and remote proceedings in order to keep the momentum. The article addresses this new reality that courts across California are facing and law professionals offer their thoughts on what this means for the justice system.
The long-established constitutional rights entitled to defendants to be charged, tried and judged by people they can look in the eye has changed for the legal system as judges and lawyers are conducting arraignments, depositions, guilty pleas and sentencing using video or telephone conferencing for certain cases. Scheduled jury trials have been suspended for 60 days in California. Bostwick commented about the importance of that face to face interaction on an in-person jury trial where “a cross-section of our society meets together and acts as a community.”
“They have a remarkable opportunity to evaluate other human beings in the flesh - parties, experts and witnesses, all under the watchful eye of a robed judge and subject to close examination.” He goes on to stress the importance of face to face jury trials by stating, “this is where the truth becomes evident - where people reveal their souls - up close and personal. If jurors and other trial participants continue to communicate only from “safe zones”, the administration of justice will have become remote, more akin to a Hollywood production.”
There are many effects that virtual proceedings are having and will continue to have on the judicial system, and opinions on what this could mean for the future.