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Time to Unmute: Videoconferencing Technology in the Courtroom

May 6, 2021

By: Leslie D. Gile-Erwin

The Journal Record

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With COVID-19 came many changes. One of the changes the legal world experienced was being pushed further into the world of technology. As of April 13, 2021, Oklahoma law on the use of video conferencing technology in District Court proceedings changed to allow the use of videoconferencing technology in all stages of civil or criminal proceedings. Previously, the text of Okla. Stat. tit. 20 § 130 prohibited the use of this technology both in a jury trial and a trial before a judge.

Among its many uses, videoconferencing technology can be used to appear virtually for pretrial hearings and used for live witness testimony at trial. The use of this technology certainly has its advantages. To begin with, it can save the client time and money. If an attorney is able to appear virtually at a motion hearing in another county, for example, the client is saved travel expense. It would also be a more efficient use of the attorney’s time as he or she would be free to work on other tasks rather than spending billable time on the road.

It may also be helpful in instances in which a witness cannot be compelled to testify, but is willing to testify by video. You will need to coordinate with any witnesses and ensure they have any links or instructions beforehand. They will need to be on standby at the appropriate time, much as if they would if they were testifying live. In my experience, this is less expensive and cumbersome than obtaining a trial deposition and reading portions of it into the record.

One of the challenges is undoubtedly the unavoidable lags that can occur. This is important to consider, and you will want to coordinate with the appropriate court personnel and check your internet setup prior.  If you intend to set up the videoconferencing at the courthouse and there is an internet connection available, a backup option such as a mobile hotspot in case of emergency would be wise.

It is also advantageous to hire a third-party company to run everything in the courtroom. These companies invest in the necessary equipment to help everything run smoothly. They can also assist with presentation of exhibits during witness testimony.

Make sure to check any court rules in case there are any restrictions or courtroom preferences. With careful preparation, videoconferencing technology can be a beneficial step forward in the legal process.