Preparing to Appear Before a Court When You Are Remote

Liz EstephanLiz Estephan, Attorney

Appearing before a judge during COVID-19 when courts are taking certain precautions to avoid in-person hearings can be a source of additional stress and apprehension.

As a client or self-represented litigant, how do you prepare when you’re going to appear in court via telephone or video? The same way you would as if you were appearing in-person.

You should discuss with your attorney the specific hearing that you are attending remotely to determine your role and how much speaking you will do. For example, your attorney will do the majority of speaking during a scheduling hearing in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County. However, if you are attending an uncontested divorce hearing and you are the plaintiff, you will be required to answer certain questions.

Other items to consider include:

  • If you have questions, ask your attorney in advance because you are not going to be able to pick-up on bodily cues or whisper questions to your attorney during the hearing.
  • It’s very important that if you are going to appear via video with a judge or magistrate, dress professionally. Keep in mind that you may still need to stand when the judge enters and departs the courtroom, even remotely, this means wearing at a minimum, professional clothing.
  • If an attorney represents you, you should not chime into the conversation with counsel, the judge, or magistrate unprompted. Allow your attorney to answer questions on your behalf, as you would if you were physically in court.
  • If your attorney, the judge or magistrate asks you a specific question, you are free to respond.
  • Whether you are attending a hearing by telephone or video, make sure to be in a quiet place. If you are appearing by video, make sure there is nothing inappropriate or distracting in your background.

Remember, you should prepare to appear in court by telephone or video as you would if you were appearing in-person. A more informal environment does not mean your dress or decorum should be informal as well.