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My First Video Trial

Rich Harris

I feel blessed to have had the privilege of practicing law for over 25 years. Having done it this long, I don’t have too many “firsts” anymore. But, yesterday, I conducted a trial by video conference for the very first time in my career! I thought I’d take a moment to share my experience.

In a nutshell, it was really rewarding. Amid the tragedy caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was a sign that one of the best, and most important, parts of our American society still works, and works well.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Everything was fair: For the husband and wife involved in the hearing, this was an important milestone in their lives. Of course, I can’t share confidential details, but all of the parties’ questions with respect to their finances and child custody were resolved. These folks had waited months for this date, and it went off as planned, except “virtually”, rather than all of us making the trip to the courthouse.
  • The technical part was easy: I clicked on a link to get connected with the judge and her clerk. Each of the parties could either click the link or call in by phone. We started on time and ended on time. No traffic to fight. No parking to find. No searching the crowded courtroom hallways our location. Just a click or a phone call, then the hearing started.
  • The judge was compassionate: She was welcoming. She acknowledged the initial weirdness of the setting. She was self-deprecating in terms of admitting that we were all learning this new technology together. She was prepared. She was kind to each of the parties. She took her time and made sure everyone was heard and everyone understood what was going on.
  • The process was dignified: This was no “running through the motions” of a “real” court appearance. We were able to present our case completely. The judge took her time to understand the facts and the issues. She issued thoughtful and complete rulings. I got the sense that each of the parties were able to speak freely and without a lot of stress or fear. After all, we were each in our homes, and there was no gallery of spectators watching.

As we all return to normal, “regular”, in-person court hearings will resume. In fact, some Colorado districts are scheduling hearings in May and June already. However, it is good to know that justice is still being served right now, each day, at least in Denver, and in other towns and cities across our state. As we transition to whatever the “new normal” means, I wonder if trials by video will be an option or for the future. In the feeling of this practitioner, that would be a good thing!


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