The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the United States in numerous ways, and court systems are no exception. Courts throughout the country have postponed hearings as they look for a safe way to move forward. One court in Texas held the first jury trial by zoom. The one-day zoom trial was held in the Collin County District Court just north of Dallas.
The jury selection process for the trial took place in May. Potential jurors logged into Zoom and were guided through the process by Judge Emily Miskel and Judge Keith Dean. Jury selection was live-streamed and recorded on YouTube by Judge Miskel. The case in Texas is over an insurance dispute and is considered a summary jury trial, which means that the verdict is non-binding.
Even though the verdict is non-binding, it provides both sides with perspective on how the trial would play out in front of a live jury. Mediation between the two parties will take place following the verdict.
The first jury trial case over Zoom involves a building damaged during a 2017 storm. The accuser is suing State Farm of not honoring its obligations to cover the property damage. The case was scheduled for trial in March 2020 but delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Challenges of Zoom Jury Trials
While holding a trial by zoom presents many challenges for the potential jurors, clients, law firms, and judges holding, it is a safer alternative than asking a large number of people to pack the courthouse and wear masks. To increase your likelihood of a successful jury trial (or bench trial), keep the following advice in mind.
First, everyone involved must have access to high-speed internet. With limited availability of public spaces due to the coronavirus pandemic, it could prove difficult for jurors and the Judge to hear all of the evidence on each side if they experience slow speeds or interruptions. Additionally, there’s always the potential for distractions from family members, someone ringing the doorbell, or any other issues that would not occur if jurors were in the courtroom.
Trials by Zoom also present a challenge to the lawyers representing both sides. Lawyers on both sides must think through the entire case before it even takes place, exchange exhibits, and submit them to the court as either agreed or objected to. If your attorney doesn’t have the trial experience to anticipate the various angles and outcomes, it can cost clients more money than expected because of the wasted time during the hearing. In San Antonio area counties such as Bexar, Comal, Atascosa, and Guadalupe, being proficient in the counties’ different nuances could be critical to success in cases.
Attorney Jennifer Espronceda is a San Antonio native whose familiar with the unique challenges of counties in the surrounding area. These counties, which have experienced even more challenges caused by working remotely, are experiencing significant delays. In fact, between the safety concerns over COVID-19 and the demonstrations, these delays are at an all-time high. What used to take the district clerk two days to process can now take over 11 days. Under normal circumstances, hearings could be set the same week requested, but now with the backlog, it is taking much longer.
With Jennifer, you can move your case efficiently and get in the “queue” to finalize as soon as possible. Jennifer is a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the process and the changes as soon as they happen because she is in Zoom court nearly every week. Her team is current on all the latest Bexar County practices and will handle your case quickly and efficiently.
You owe it to yourself to work with a skilled attorney familiar with modern technology necessary to move your case quickly through the court system in these unprecedented times.