Judges Prefer Zoom And WebEx As Courtrooms Go Virtual

By Kevin Penton
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Law360 (May 20, 2020, 6:34 PM EDT) -- Zoom and WebEx are the online platforms of choice for judges throughout the country in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Judicial College's polling of hundreds of judges.

Of the 702 judges who responded to the online survey by the nonprofit educational organization for judges, 48% reported they are using Zoom and 25% said they are using WebEx in their court proceedings in lieu of in-person sessions, according to the group.

Judges said they like that Zoom allows participants to enter into separate rooms for confidential proceedings, that hearings conducted on the application can be recorded and stored, that it appears to allow "greater access to the justice system" and that participants can appear to be more comfortable than if they were inside the courtroom, according to the survey's results released on May 13.

Aside from WebEx, 9.7% of the responding judges used Skype, 9.1% used Microsoft Teams, 6.1% used GoToMeeting and 3.9% used Google Hangouts, according to the organization's survey, which was sent to about 12,000 alumni.

The organization announced in April that it planned to formally study the novel coronavirus' effect on the judicial system, after hundreds of judges reported that their courts are operating at less than one-quarter of their pre-pandemic capacity.

Fifty-seven percent of the 876 judges informally polled by the group as part of an earlier survey said their courts are performing at less than 25% of their normal operations and nearly 80% said they were running at less than half of their normal operations. Just 22% said their courts were operating at 50% or better.

Several of the judges said jury trials have been delayed for weeks or months, civil cases have ground to a near standstill and the crisis has forced them to rethink pretrial detention in criminal cases.

The organization said it sent judges a more in-depth survey that it would use in a "full-blown academic study" on the virus' impact on courts, but did not announce a timeline.

--Additional reporting by Brandon Lowrey. Editing by Amy Rowe.

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