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How Do Virtual Court Hearings Work in Ohio?

How Do Virtual Court Hearings Work in Ohio?

All across Ohio, courts continue to be closed to the public due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But many of our clients still need to initiate or finalize bankruptcy proceedings. To ensure that they are safe and well taken care of during these difficult times, increased use of technology is vital. But it could be a potentially stressful or frustrating experience for some. So we’re here to explain the ins and outs of virtual court hearings and to put your mind at ease.

Remote Court Hearings: A Brief Rundown

In light of the continuing risks posed by COVID-19, the Ohio Supreme Court has mandated that courts operate under amended rules. This has taken proceedings into the virtual realm. Only a small handful of people can be inside a court at any given time, and so the best way to keep cases moving is to hold virtual court hearings.

For our clients – whether they’re undergoing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings – this means that discussions with all involved parties are handled virtually. But the general process remains the same, with relevant evidence being submitted on our client’s behalf, well in advance of the actual hearing date. 

The only thing our clients need to worry about is securing an internet connection and access to the court’s preferred video conferencing platform. If internet connectivity becomes an issue, we can work with our clients to find a solution, be it utilizing available Wi-Fi hotspots or conducting remote court hearings via telephone. In any case, we can work with our client to ensure that they can find a way to be present during the hearing process.

Regardless of how the virtual hearing is handled, here are some key reminders for participants:

  • Check emails and voicemails regularly. If the court plans to hold a virtual hearing, it will notify all parties involved – we encourage our clients to keep a close eye on email and voicemail accounts. For added assurance, courts often publicly post their daily list of hearings on their website.
  • Become familiar with the technology. If the hearing will be held virtually using a video conferencing platform, it’s important to have it downloaded or bookmarked far in advance. This allows time for investigation of settings and features and practice sessions to ensure that the speakers, microphone, and camera work well during the hearing.
  • Prepare the space. Ensure that the location used for the remote hearing is quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free. Consider using headphones or a hands free headset. Backgrounds should be neutral and lighting should be balanced. Make sure that internet access is reliable in the chosen location and that the device is fully charged and close to a nearby power source. If using a phone, ensure that minutes are available for the call. 
  • Prepare yourself. If the hearing will be held over video, dress in a way that’s appropriate for a court trial. Make a list of any questions to ask the judge and keep paperwork organized. Have the access phone number and a phone at the ready in case internet connectivity gives out. If a witness needs to testify, speak with us in advance.
  • Be on time. Internet connectivity issues, technological glitches, or family situations could pose a problem for virtual court hearings. Allow enough advance time – even while in the comfort of home – to ensure that the hearing is convenient for everyone.

Using Video Conferencing for Virtual Court Hearings

The court’s preferred video conferencing platform can likely be installed on any device or accessed online. Login information will be sent as an invitation or a set of credentials. We will ensure that our clients have the access information they need well in advance of the scheduled hearing. If internet connectivity is an issue, video conferencing platforms can typically accommodate landline or cellphone calls.

After joining via a link or login credentials, participants will enter a virtual waiting room and then be admitted into the hearing. Because links are specific to hearings and invitations are not open to the public, this is an effective way to be sure that only the relevant parties are present. 

To access the link or attend a hearing, creating a personal account is not necessary. But it can be practical. A personal account allows the user to get familiar with the platform’s features, set preferences and settings, and create practice meetings. 

Here are some best practices to ensure that the virtual court hearing goes smoothly:

  • Securely support device for the best video and audio quality
  • Pause before speaking in case of lag time and only speak when called on
  • Remain muted when not speaking
  • Do not use a virtual background
  • When speaking, look directly at the webcam
  • Minimize others’ Wi-Fi use for the best audio and video transmission
  • Ensure that the displayed screen name matches what is on file with the court

Video conferencing platforms also offer features like chat and breakout rooms that allow for one-on-one communication. This can be especially helpful for us to speak with our client in private if need be. And just like being inside a physical courtroom, the judge is the administrator and will have control over certain features of the virtual hearing. 

Technology and Client Communications

As the pandemic continues we will use whatever means necessary to handle our clients’ bankruptcy filings. In addition to using video conferencing platforms for virtual court hearings, we are also using these tools to conduct virtual and phone consultations. We’ve also made an app available to clients to make it easy to upload documents and get in touch with us. 

Traditional payment methods could be problematic so we’ve created two easy-to-use options for clients. We can make a link available via text or email that will take clients to an online payment platform, and we can also set up a scheduled, auto-deducted payment plan. Online bill payment and texting are just two ways that we are working to make things easier for our clients during uncertain times.

Virtual Court Hearings and the Future

The increase in transparency we’re seeing around court processes can only have a positive effect in the long run. Not only can this process boost public confidence, but it also makes filing for bankruptcy more convenient and safe during this ongoing pandemic. We’ll see what the future holds, but rest assured that we will be here to direct our clients and help to navigate changes as they come.

Expert Advice During Uncertain Times

Every court will handle hearings differently, and here at Bates & Hausen, LLC we’ll make sure that our clients are aware and prepared well before the hearing date arrives. If you have specific questions or concerns regarding the use of technology in your virtual court hearing, reach out to us online, via our app, or with a call or text. 

If you’re facing Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and aren’t sure how to proceed, get in touch with the experts at Bates and Hausen, LLC and our Northeast Ohio Bankruptcy Attorneys can weigh in. Call us directly or complete our online contact form to schedule a free, virtual bankruptcy consultation. We proudly serve the Akron, Canton, Wooster, and New Philadelphia communities and are here to help. Reach out today!

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