Get lemons and make lemonade. It is what we as criminal defense attorneys are trained to do. So lets take a look at an awful year and figure out what good came of it?
This is the game changer for law and the courts.
Civil Court: Civil judges have five minute motion calendars. A lawyer who lives in Kendall and has an office in Dadeland will spend two hours commuting to downtown Miami, then waiting in Court, then driving back to the office. Now with virtual hearings, they can handle it in on Zoom in their office. It saves time and money and even helps the environment by taking carbon emitting cars off the streets. It is a no-brainer which is why we are sure some judges will want to immediately go back to live hearings and no Zoom. There is no reason why even more complex hearings like summary judgements (whatever those are) cannot be done virtually.
Criminal Court: Misdemeanor courts can save defendants and witnesses a lot of time and money. County Court is often called "The People's Court" but really it is "The Poor People's Court." As we know, many people struggle to pay bills with two or even three jobs. We cannot tell you how many school teachers we have met as Uber drivers or Starbucks Baristas. An appearance for a calendar call or arraignment involves taking a morning off from work, paying for parking, and then sitting in court as lawyers come streaming in and cutting ahead of you. Now, with a virtual hearing, a person can take a half hour break from work, step into a quiet room, and turn down the State's offer of 364 for expectorating on the sidewalk. Once again, we are confident Judges will want to return to the old ways. One thing that they are certain to say is "how can we do in person and virtual hearings at the same time? It will be too difficult."
The answer is that when people set their court date you give them an option for virtual arraignments and report dates and then the clerks put those hearings into a Judge's schedule for the week. At 9 a.m. a Judge does in person arraignments. At 9:30 a.m. virtual arraignments. At 10 a.m. in person reports. At 10:30 a.m. virtual reports. And so on and so on.
The great Golf Champion Gary Player broke the mold for golf players and athletes in the 1960's. He stretched and ran and did yoga and lifted weights and studied nutrition back when such things were ridiculed. Well into his 90's, he does 1000 sit-ups and 100 pushups a day. He has ten rules for living, the first and best is "Change is the Price of Survival."
We have a real chance here to remake the court system as more user friendly. The world and the virus has literally pushed an antiquated court system into the 21st century. Credit to Judge Soto and her team of Judges who got it up and running quickly. Please do not go back to the old ways. Let it be that sometime around 2040 a group of lawyers and judges are meeting on line and a few of the old-timers reminisce about the days when lawyers and litigants had to go to court in person for arraignments, status conferences, and motions.
Lets take the lemons of 2020 and make some lemonade (virtually, of course).