Legal Luddites

Some of the courts where I practice divorce and family law are intent on abandoning the innovation and improvements that remote hearings have brought (and would have otherwise continued to bring) to the overwhelming majority of family law proceedings and participants (and yes, that includes evidentiary hearings and trials). We were forced by COVID-19 to learn how to conduct court proceedings without being physically present in the courthouse, to learn how to hold hearings over Zoom (Utah courts use WebEx, which is the same kind of platform), and you know what? We did it. We not only managed to make it work, we developed ways to make it work very well (and it’s only going to get better, unless we abandon it and dismantle it, which many in the court system are trying to do).

I went to a hearing yesterday that was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. I had to leave at 9:30 a.m. to get there on time, I then had to wait for an hour and 15 minutes for my hearing to start, and I was back at the office by 12:30 p.m. my client was permitted to attend the hearing remotely, but—inexplicably—I was required to be present in court for a proffer hearing. So I had to wait for an hour and 15 minutes until the hearing. I had to drive about 50 minutes round trip to and from court, so my client had to pay me for almost 3 hours for half an hour of substantive legal work. Had I been permitted to attend the hearing remotely, I would have only had to charge the client for half an hour of work. This is inexcusable on the part of the courts. Remote hearing attendance has been the greatest innovation promoting access to justice in the last generation, and some Utah courts are bent on eradicating it (and for no good reason). Legal Luddites aren’t doing public trust in the legal system any favors.

Utah Family Law, LC | | 801-466-9277

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