The world was already in the midst of a large transition to remote and virtual online practices, but the pandemic of COVID-19 has forced an acceleration on much of it. With social distancing and lockdown measures, people are forced to stay away from each other. Courts are no different. They are not only following social distancing measures, many are switching to remote hearings in an attempt to keep people safe and speed up the process of court proceedings. While there are undeniably benefits to this move, there are also some issues. Experts are saying that it will facilitate their work as witnesses, but there is concern that cross examinations won’t be as thorough. Only time will tell how all of this will shake out, but as the process has begun, certain details are coming to the forefront.
Transition to virtual hearings
Instead of holding court hearings in-person, many urgent and significant cases are being moved to virtual courtrooms that can be held remotely. This requires everyone to download software capable of helping them to join remotely from wherever they are. While all the court proceedings will occur like normal, there is no avoiding the fact that it will affect the process. The parties will need to have a Bible or another book they are swearing upon ready if they are to be examined. There are some benefits, but also disadvantages.
Benefits of going remote
Arguably the most obvious advantage of going remote when it comes to court hearings is that there is no travel. A lot of time, effort, and money is saved from not having to go anywhere, allowing people to attend the hearing from wherever they are. This can greatly benefit personal injury cases according to McGinley, which is one of the best personal injury solicitors in Ireland.
Another benefit is that if the court is delayed, it is not as big of a deal. People can attend the hearing whenever by going remote. Expert witnesses are saying that it will help their work. Not only will it be easier for them to give their opinions, they won’t have to travel to do it. This means that both parties can call expert witnesses who may not even be in the same city.
Another difference is that both parties will need to have all the documentation provided by the court beforehand, which could actually lead to a more just case. Still, there are critics of remote hearings and concerns that they may not be all that they are cracked up to be.
Drawbacks of going remote
Though experts are saying that it facilitates their work, many are questioning how well they can be cross-examined. Sometimes easier doesn’t mean better. The atmosphere is undeniably changed by going online, and it is hard to know how this will affect the overall case. Clarity is also an issue. Everyone involved needs to have a high speed internet connection or there may be delays in the process. This is inevitable in some ways. Furthermore, the ability for people to be in different time zones may lead to problems with schedule that could push back proceedings and lead to delays.
Honesty of experts
When the hearing is conducted remotely, it can be difficult to ensure that the expert doesn’t have anyone in the room, isn’t talking to someone online, or that they are not looking at any notes they may have. All of which are not allowed in the courtroom. After all, these experts are being paid for their time, it goes without saying that ensuring their honesty and integrity is a significant concern. Remote hearings very well might facilitate the work of expert witnesses, but it could also lead to bad calls and a lack of cross-examination. These challenges, however, are seen as surmountable problems by many in the field.
The inevitable switch
In some ways the switch to remote courtrooms was inevitable. Looking at the issue that way allows us to see the positives in getting started earlier. Remote court hearings will not be perfect, the industry is brand new and will be improved over time, but it goes without saying the accelerating the process is unnecessary and vital to these times. Whether you are a supporter or are skeptical, everyone can agree that working towards a more perfect court system benefits us all. It should be easier, less time-consuming, and fairer overall.