What are Lawyers saying about Remote Proceedings? Shendell & Pollock, P.L. Attorneys share their thoughts on the virtual process and what they have observed. What are your thoughts? It appears in one form or fashion attendance at routine and non-evidentiary hearings post COVID-19 is likely here to stay for civil cases, but not trials. As reported in the Florida Bar News June 2021 edition, the Florida Bar published a “healthy response” from the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force subcommittee to continue Zoom hearings. In this regard, there is a current proposal before the Supreme Court to change the Rules of Judicial Administration Committee to amend Rule 2.530, which governs activities utilizing “Communications Equipment.”
It is important to note that the proposed changes allow parties to object to the request for a Zoom hearing. In the event of a dispute, the presiding Judge will have the discretion to overrule any such objection. From a practice standpoint, potentially there will be a requirement that all Notices for hearings state whether the parties have stipulated to Remote Proceedings. The proposed changes go so far as to allow even evidentiary hearings if the parties agree. Whether Remote Proceedings may be available for evidentiary hearings will be considered by the Court on a case-by-case basis.
Additionally, one practical result of the routines of Remote Proceedings that have arisen out of COVID19 is that it is highly likely attendance at depositions via Zoom will also continue in large measure. However, we are already seeing where lawyers/parties seek to manipulate Zoom deposition attendance to fit their purpose. For example, lawyers are strategically seeking to protect their clients and perhaps key witnesses from live depositions so that those deponents are not subject to a live and potentially intimidating cross-examination that can only occur during a live deposition. We anticipate that Motion practice in these areas will increase as there will undoubtedly be disputes on how particular depositions are to proceed.
Also, regarding depositions, an observation our firm lawyers have made is that there are many instances where the integrity of the deposition process may be compromised. We have experienced instances where undisclosed individuals are sitting in the room with deponents, perhaps providing notes or writing on boards to coach answers to questions. Our firm is instituting a firm procedure for each remote deposition, where our lawyers ask both the deponent and opposing counsel to confirm no one has coached the witness in any way.
The final approval of the above-discussed changes to the Rules of Judicial Administration will be determined by the Supreme Court, to which we will confirm at that time.
As always, if you would like further information on the above topic, or a presentation on this and other topics, Shendell & Pollock would be pleased to do so for your group. For more about the firm, please visit www.shendellpollock.com
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