How do I present my best to the court, telephonically?
If you read our blog from last week, then you know that more and more courts have been scheduling hearings, virtually, due to COVID-19. Some courts are even considering making virtual hearings a new ‘normal’, and might continue to hold virtual court even after the health concerns with COVID-19 have passed. In our last blog, we highlighted some great ‘video etiquette’ to help you present yourself to the court as professionally and respectfully as possible. But what about telephonic hearings?
Different courts are using different platforms and software. Sometimes a court opts for a video appearance, but sometimes a telephonic appearance suffices. While you will need different equipment and capabilities depending on the platform, there are some general guidelines that apply across the board:
1. Find a quiet place
Make sure that you are in a quiet place where you have good phone reception. Of course, if you are using a cellphone, make sure it’s charged!
Have a copy of your plea documents in front of you in case the Judge has questions about specific portions. Some Judges reference particular parts to ensure you’ve reviewed the documents before signing them. You don’t need to expect a quiz, but particularly with telephonic pleas, where a Judge cannot see your facial expressions or gestures, a hint of uncertainty can affect your ability to proceed with the hearing.
3. Speak clearly
When you’re on the line, in addition to your attorney, you will also have the prosecutor, Judge, and court clerk on the line. Speak clearly so that everything you say will be caught in the recording and become part of the “court record.”
4. Be heard
Make sure that your microphone is working. Try to avoid using speaker phone, if possible, unless you are certain that the connection is strong.
Sometimes you are on a docket with other people who are also resolving their cases. If your case is not the one being currently handled by the Judge, try to mute your microphone so no sounds or white noise from your end interfere with the audio.
Keep in mind that when you are on a conference line with all of the other parties, that you will NOT be able to speak with your attorney privately. Make sure to ask all of your questions during the pre-court phone call with your attorney. Your attorney will also follow up with you after the hearing with a separate phone call to ensure that everything came through clearly and to walk through your next steps.
7. After court follow up
After court, check your email for the signed Judge’s Order and referral paperwork from the court. This will often include your deadlines as well as the specific conditions of your diversion or probation. Note that some courts are delayed in uploading the signed paperwork, so this could take several days.
8. Be prepared
Ultimately, different court systems are moving forward with these procedures in different ways. Make sure that, going into your telephonic appearance, that you have spoken with your attorney or legal assistant about any technological issues you may be having or questions that arise.