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Policy Statement Protocol for requesting a teleconference or videoconference hearing in Superior Court criminal cases and tips for participants
Table of Contents
Requesting a Teleconference or Videoconference Hearing
1. The Commonwealth or defendant may request a virtual (teleconference or videoconference) hearing in any criminal case. Parties must confer regarding the appropriateness of such a hearing before requesting one. A change of plea hearing can be conducted only by videoconference and not solely by teleconference.
2. A request for a virtual hearing must be made by a written motion with the court and must include the requesting party’s telephone number and email address, and, if available, telephone and email contacts for the opposing party. All motions, even if filed jointly, must be served on all parties and may be filed electronically according to applicable procedures.
3. The motion for a virtual hearing should include a brief summary of the specific motion or issue(s) to be addressed at the hearing and a description of recent efforts made by defense counsel and the Commonwealth to address the issue(s), and if appropriate, all efforts made by the Commonwealth to inform any allege victim(s) of the proposed virtual hearing.
4. All parties should file and serve any pleadings and attachments 48 hours in advance of the scheduled hearing.
5. A party should notify the court 72 hours in advance of the scheduled hearing if language interpreter services or deaf or hard-of-hearing services are required so that such arrangements can be made.
6. The court may continue a virtual hearing if it becomes evident that the physical presence of a party is necessary. In such instance, the hearing will be continued until such appearance can be accommodated.
7. The court may notify the parties of the hearing date and time by email.
Tips for Parties Participating in a Teleconference or Videoconference Hearing*
1. Participants should determine in advance of the virtual hearing what device will be used to access the hearing (i.e. computer, telephone, tablet), and make sure that the device’s camera, speakers, and microphones are working properly.
2. Defense counsel should determine in advance and discuss with the defendant the method by which counsel and defendant will communicate privately during the hearing. During the hearing, counsel should be prepared to request a temporary suspension of the hearing if necessary to permit such communication. The Court will accommodate such requests.
3. Participants should connect to the teleconference or videoconference hearing at least five minutes in advance of the hearing and from a location with minimal distractions and background noise.
4. Participants are encouraged to use a landline when possible for a teleconference appearance.
5. Participants should consider using a solid background and having adequate and appropriate lighting.
6. Participants should minimize noises and distractions by muting the microphone or telephone when not speaking.
7. Participants should be mindful of audio echo or audio feedback and be ready to address that issue if necessary (the use of separate devices for audio and video connection, or for separate participants in close proximity, tends to increase echo).
8. Participants should position the camera at about eye level if possible and look at the camera when speaking.
9. At least initially, and as often as necessary to avoid confusion, participants should identify themselves before speaking, and speak slowly and clearly. It is useful to pause before speaking, in case there is any audio or video lag.
10. Participants must speak one at a time and not interrupt other speakers. If the court is using Zoom to conduct a hearing, use the “raise your hand” function, if instructed to do so.
11. If an interpreter is present, participants must speak in short, declarative sentences, must use simple words, and must pause after each sentence to permit the interpreter time to translate.
12. Participants are reminded that even though the hearing is virtual, courtroom rules, practice, attire, and decorum of course still apply.
13. Participants should ensure that all motions, exhibits, and other documents that will be discussed at the hearing are filed with the court and served on all parties in advance of the hearing.
14. Just as in a courtroom, unauthorized recordings of virtual court hearings are impermissible.
* Resource: Capacity Building Center for Courts, “Conducting Effective Remote Hearings in Child Welfare Cases,” http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law.