A Texas court held its first jury trial monday through Zoom,media outlet The Verge reported. The news comes as the u.S. court system across the country is facing a choice between postponing trials until the outbreak is over or holding long-range lawsuits. The Texas case is an insurance dispute in the Colin County area, Reuters reported. Judge Emily Miskel broadcast the jury selection process live on her YouTube channel monday morning.
Next, jurors will hear a brief version of the dispute— a lawsuit against State Farm for not covering property damage that occurred during the 2017 storm and make a non-binding verdict. “Officials say the simplified format and non-binding verdicts make it ideal to test the feasibility of holding a jury trial remotely,” Reuters wrote.
Since March, courts across the United States have suspended hearings to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The trial, which could not be postponed, has begun to be moved to Zoom. The Texas case is believed to be the first jury trial on videoconferencing software.
The san Francisco courthouse was one of the first to begin a remote hearing at the start of the pandemic. Judge Vince Chhabria told The Verge in late April that he hoped the process would bring more transparency to the court, and he began hearing civil cases on Zoom and broadcasting the proceedings to the public.
But Chhabria is also wary of moving the jury trial to Zoom. “A lot of times it’s about hearing cases from a lawyer’s point of view, about the court, about the people in the courtroom and what they’re interested in,” he told The Verge. “As a judge, many of the things that lead the trial are about feelings. I think it would be unfortunate if the new normal relied too much on remote litigation. “
There may also be technical difficulties. During the jury selection process, Miskel instructed potential jurors on how to use Zoom on the device. “Can you turn your equipment from this side to this one?” She asked a juror to signal her to turn the iPad horizontally. The juror did, but her image appeared on the side.
Miskel then patiently taught her how to change the settings to solve the problem. “Oh, come on, Kathy, you can do it, ” muttered the judge. “Hey…. It doesn’t matter, we’re all new. Miskel responded.