In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Courts as well as the Social Security Administration have authorized the increased use of telephonic and videoconferencing proceedings. The Social Security Administration has been equipped for remote hearings for years, but the Agency has now gone exclusively to remote hearings while these emergency measures are in effect. Packard Law Firm attorneys Brooke Bure and Sarah Kocian have already had multiple remote hearings, and they report that everything went very well.
In state court, the Texas Supreme Court has issued a number of general orders dealing with the Court’s response to COVID-19. The first such order authorizes depositions, hearings and other proceedings – everything except a jury trial – to be conducted by teleconference or videoconference. The Order explicitly authorizes the use of out of court testimony and allows a court reporter to work in a remote location. If anyone objects to such measures, the Court may require them to proceed even without the consent of all the parties.
It remains to be seen how well these measures work because everyone is scrambling to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees are trying to work from home, doctors and healthcare professionals are busy and don’t want to be bothered by the legal process, and many attorneys don’t have the technological ability to bring up exhibits remotely. The Packard Law Firm has been on the cutting edge in terms of this kind of technology for years. We have the ability to use videoconferencing combined with trial presentation software to conduct virtual hearings in a way that allows everyone to participate and allows us to present documents, video clips, photographs and deposition transcripts on-screen in real time. However, opposing counsel is frequently less comfortable with this technology, so it is now a matter of helping opposing counsel understand that their clients will not be compromised by doing important hearings and depositions remotely. We are new into this process, and we hope that everyone will become more accustomed to this new reality as the days and weeks pass.