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Business Observer Thursday, Apr. 16, 2020 2 years ago

Judge: When on a Zoom call, wear a shirt — please.

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South Florida judge sets the record straight on Zoom courtroom attire.

Everyone in business, it seems, is Zooming these days — that is, conducing business over the ubiquitous web videoconferencing platform.

But a Florida judge, while directed to attorneys and other courtroom personnel in Broward County, has a funny-yet-serious message apropos for anyone getting in on a Zoom call: Dress, and act, appropriately.

Judge Dennis Bailey, in the 17th Circuit Court, says as much in a letter, “Virtual view from the bench,” recently sent to attorneys and reposted by the Weston Bar Association.

“One comment that needs sharing and that is the judges would appreciate it if the lawyers and their clients keep in mind these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings,” the judge writes. “They are not casual phone conversations. It is remarkable how many attorneys appear inappropriately on camera. We've seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless, and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won't cover up you're poolside in a bathing suit. So please, if you don't mind, let's treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.”

Beyond attire, Bailey admonishes attorneys for treating Zoom like a time to check out, not a real-life court happening. Video lag time and overworked Wi-Fi and bandwidths exacerbate the situation. “Often, lawyers are not looking at their screens but down at their files, their outlines and notes, or simply out the window, and cannot see the judge is hollering "Stop! Stop!" because an objection has been made, and the audio stays with the witness rather than obeying the judge,” Bailey writes.

And finally, Bailey, echoing thoughts of many others grappling with the quick transition to a new way of working, rallies the troops with a "We’re all in this together" mantra.

“At the end of the day, we conduct these hearings as best we can, knowing we're running on one of those miniature spare tires we pulled from the trunk rather than a ‘real’ tire,” the judge writes. “But it will get us to where we need to go if we decrease our speed and increase our caution and shorten our trip. Resolve as many issues as you can through negotiation and then buckle up. We'll get there, but it may get a little bumpy along the way.”

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