Every practicing attorney and judge has by now likely seen the video of the Texas attorney who appeared at a court hearing conducted via Zoom in the form of a fluffy, white kitten. “I’m here live. I’m not a cat,” has emerged as the mantra of the week. The enthusiasm with which the recording has been shared reflects both the ubiquity of web-based hearings and the technological mishaps that can derail them. But technology is not the only thing that can go awry in a remote proceeding. Sometimes the problems are more fundamentally human, arising from behaviors that, were they committed in the courtroom, might lead to a finding of direct criminal contempt. Repeatedly talking over a judge or another litigant, arguing with a judge after having been asked to be quiet, cursing at a judge or another person present, using a racial slur, or appearing in a state of undress are examples. When a person engages in this sort of behavior in a remote proceeding, may the judge summarily punish the act as direct criminal contempt? Or must the judge issue an order to show cause and address the contemptuous behavior in a subsequent proceeding?
Last month, the NC Judicial College offered our first criminal legal update via Zoom. Many of you tuned in and said you liked it. So we followed up two weeks later with another. Some of you have said we should make this a thing. We’re not ready to say this is forever just yet, but we like the way things are going. So please join us again this Friday for our third Zoom update in the time of COVID-19. And we will commit right now to offering another criminal legal update on Friday, May 8. Here are the details for joining us this week: