Post by: Wendy Wrobel
I hope this blog post finds you safe, healthy, and happy (or as much as anyone of us can feel or be any of these things in the chaotic year that is 2020). My name is Wendy Wrobel, and I am a 2L law student here at Regent University School of Law. This is my second semester working with the Center for Global Justice, and my first semester working as a Law Clerk. I’ve been blessed this year to get to work on two projects. Primarily I am conducting research for International Justice Mission (IJM), researching the effectiveness and procedural aspects of virtual courts, I am also assisting in a labor trafficking statutory research project with Shared Hope.
IJM works is an NGO that works on international human rights issues in law and law enforcement. The African branch works on human rights and legal issues pursuant to Africa. Africa, like the rest of the world, have been hit by Covid-19, and have asked us to explore the effectiveness and procedure of virtual courts.
2020 and Covid-19 Regulations have required all communities to discover new ways of approaching their everyday duties, errands, and jobs. Within the legal community, the biggest question to confront was and is, how to conduct court with proper and safe procedure in a 2020 world.
With social distancing regulations, and the safety of civilians in mind, the legal community very quickly needed to find a new way to conduct courts. Unless they wished to remain shut down either to their clients, or at the very least to the general public, court needed a new forum.
So, Court took to the internet! This is an area that has been explored by courts prior to 2020, however, it has never before been utilized in mass as 2020 has required. A few of the most important aspects of a forum for the courts were security, procedure, and public access. Zoom was and continues to be the main platform utilized by courts, though, especially in the beginning, it was not without issue. Zoom experienced a large amount of “zoom bombing”, which it quickly remedied with passwords required for meetings. Zoom bombing is when someone who was not invited, gets onto the link and takes over the platform, often with crude and offensive content such as killings and porn. Once this issue was remedied, zoom also created many features that lend themselves very nicely to court procedure. One of these features is break out rooms, an excellent feature that has been utilized for a range of court procedure, from jury proceedings to client lawyer conversations.
As for public access, most courts have begun to record the proceedings and make them available within a reasonable amount of time on YouTube. The legal world, traditionally slow to change, has adapted quite quickly to this “new normal”. Though many courts are opening up again, some are retaining virtual features for accessibility, as well as public safety.
This post was written by a Center for Global Justice Student Staff member. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of Regent University, Regent Law School, or the Center for Global Justice.