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I am not positive, but can most likely guess your response to the notion that the majority of us are overwhelmed with the effects of COVID and the fall-out it has caused. Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing, and worrying, about it. That said, I do believe there are some positives that have come about from trying to address the daily woes associated with COVID. Some of these positives are evident in the legal system. One benefit, from my standpoint, is the Utah courts’ announcement that they are going to conduct many more proceedings in a virtual fashion rather than having to be in court for everything.
A recent article published by KSL.com quoted Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant as stating: “Some changes have proven to be beneficial to the people and will continue in the future. Some remain temporary, at least until we can return to something similar to pre-pandemic operations.” Allowing virtual hearing and appearances allows people to take off less time from work, requires less travel time for both attorneys and their clients, and helps avoid additional expenses.
The courts are going even further with online self-help resources. They are currently exploring a special program online program, Online Dispute Resolution, to help facilitate the resolution of small claims actions. Hopefully, the resolution of these types of matters will help the courts with addressing the significant delays and backlogs the courts currently face.
Of course, virtual appearances and hearings do encounter issues perhaps with IT difficulties and background noise. Too, you will need to have the proper equipment for the hearing such as a computer, tablet, or telephone that has internet access. Just as with in-court appearances, your demeanor and attire need to be appropriate. You must also log into the hearing or proceeding on time. A widow of at least 3 to 5 minutes early is recommended. Individuals are not allowed to video or record the proceedings.
The courts are working hard to try and address issues associated with virtual appearances occurring in a timelier manner. Despite bumps, however, it is generally much easier and more efficient to appear virtually than have to travel to court, go through security and make an in-person appearance.
That said, not everything associated with the court will be virtual. In–person jury trials resumed in May 2021. After all, justice is the basis for our court system and everyone has a right to it.