Re: “What gets lost when Zoom takes over the courtroom” [June 1, Opinion]:
Judge John C. Coughenour’s Op-Ed regarding virtual court and courtroom decorum is a welcome reminder of what normal professional life is supposed to look like. I once witnessed Judge Coughenour respectfully but firmly inform a lawyer, who had appeared before him without a tie or suit jacket, that his courtroom was one of the last bastions of decorum in our society and that in the future the lawyer would be well-served to dress appropriately.
All that being said, virtual court appearances are vitally important for low-income litigants who lack the resources to drive or bus, missing hours of work and pay for brief court appearances. While this rarely happens in a federal courtroom, it is the common practice in our county courts, and it is particularly hard on people in rural counties where they may drive an hour to get to court.
We have not done a great job of providing alternative ways to appear in the past, imposing costs on people who are not prepared to take them, or simply failing to appear for lack of transportation. A litigant calling in or using Zoom is not necessarily a sign of disrespect for the court but a choice between necessities.
Scott Crain, Seattle