A judge in Florida has warned lawyers in his county to make sure they get out of bed and dress “appropriately” for online hearings, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Broward County circuit judge Dennis Bailey wrote an open letter to a bar association, saying that he has seen some lawyers appear topless on the video conferencing software Zoom, as the profession gets used to working from home as a result of the spread of COVID-19.
Judge Bailey said: “We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background.
“One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers.
“And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”
The judge admitted that getting used to online hearings, which can often involve dozens of people at once, is a challenge, saying: “Be aware, Zoom hearings take more time than in-person hearings due to lag time in audio capacity coming online and people talking over each other which challenges the responsibility to make contemporaneous objections.
“Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes, or simply out the window, and cannot see the judge is hollering ‘Stop! Stop!’ because an objection has been made and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge.”
He concluded by saying there is “no such thing as an objection to Zoom”.
According to local media, since the county’s courtrooms closed down in the middle of March, officials have conducted more than 1,200 hearings using Zoom, that have involved more than 13,700 people.
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As lawyers in Florida get used to a new way of working, on Tuesday, the state governor announced that WWE, the wrestling brand, could be classed as essential work, meaning wrestlers are able to go back to work in the ring – despite the state’s lockdown.
The US is the hardest hit country in the world in terms of the number of people dying with coronavirus, with more than 27,000 people losing their lives to the outbreak.