Not quite business as usual in courtrooms across New Jersey, but features like Zoom video conferencing are allowing citizens access to the the state’s judicial system.
After almost 30 years of practicing Family Law there is little that I can say is a completely new experience, but yesterday was a first. I appeared for court, from my home office, via “Zoom”. (And yes, I put on a tie). This was a Burlington County Family Court proceeding involving DCPP (formerly DYFS) and multiple attorneys, court staff, and litigants. Given that there were no less than a dozen participants, it went remarkably smoothly. Testimony was taken, evidence presented, and the Judge, also appearing from his home, was wearing his robe. The hearing was fully recorded for the record, and the Court maintained a full measure of formality at all times (except for the occasional home interruption from children or pets!).
If you have not gotten familiar with “zoom”, which is an on-line video conferencing application, then you might want to take a few minutes to do so if you have matters pending in the courts. For at least a little while moving forward, it appears that the Courts are going to rely on that application to handle many court proceedings. When logged in, you can opt to include live video of yourself or just participate by telephone (no picture). Audio from participants can be muted when necessary by court staff.
The one major obstacle is that communicating with clients confidentially is difficult during a “zoom” hearing. No virtual “whispering” to your attorney is possible. As an alternative, such communicating may be done by text message or private messaging application during the proceeding, or an adjournment of the hearing may need to be requested if serious. Zoom has a messaging or “chat” component during the session which can be direct between only two parties, but given that the court is overseeing the hearing I believe the confidentiality is compromised and therefore not a good idea.
This is an evolving situation and hopefully will not persist for too long. In the meantime, lawyers are adapting the landscape and continuing to do the best work we can to ensure the rights and privileges of our clients.
Drew Molotsky, Esq. is a partner and shareholder at Adinolfi, Lieberman, Burick, Falkenstein, Roberto & Molotsky, PA in Haddonfield, New Jersey. Drew represents clients throughout NJ dealing with all aspects of divorce and family law.