Please see the below message from Judge Gary Lynch of the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District.
Our court is considering a limited pilot project for holding appellate oral argument by video conference. Has your court had any experience with this concept? If so, I’d like to hear about it and review copies of any rules, policies or reports related to it. Please respond to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for your consideration and help.
We toyed with the idea a few years ago, but I don’t think we actually ever had one. I know our Supreme Court had a similar program, but again, I don’t know how successful it was. Finally, I think our 1st District Court of Appeal (which handles the bulk of the administrative matters statewide) also tried to implement such a program. Paul Hawkes, CJ of the 1st DCA, may have some input on that, and Tom Hall, the Clerk of our Supreme Court, might have info on the program in that forum.
Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida
Hi Brenda, The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami does it all the time with lawyers who live in Key West.
Judge Robert Pleus
We do not do video conferencing but the Texas Supreme Court does. You might look at their website. The SC does this in conjunction with a law school. I am not sure who pays for it. I hope this helps.
Judge Sherry Radack
Dear Judge Lynch,
I work in the NCSC’s Knowledge and Information Services division and Brenda Williams sent us your listserv query in hopes that we may have some information regarding appellate oral argument by video conference. We have created an online video conferencing state link document that I have attached below that I hope proves helpful:
Knowledge and Information Services
National Center for State Courts
300 Newport Avenue
Williamsburg, VA 23185
We have used video for oral arguments on an ad hoc basis, no rules, etc. Happy to discuss with you by phone if you want to call me at my home office today, 206-842-6459, or I can call you and save your court money since I have unlimited long distance on my home phone. Just tell me the time. I will be here all day preparing for this week’s arguments, except for 1 – 2:30 Pacific Time, when I will take a swim break.
Judge J. Robin Hunt
Court of Appeals, Division II
950 Broadway, Suite 300
Tacoma, WA 98402
Telephone: 253 593-2970
We have not had any experience with video-conferencing appellate arguments in N.C. Our 3 Business Courts do have provisions for video-conference motion hearings, and I would be happy to try to get you some information from those courts if you think it would be helpful.
John C. Martin
N.C.Court of Appeals
Raleigh, NC 27602
We have not actually done oral argument using video teleconferencing although we have the capability of doing it. Our court and all the intermediate appellate courts around the state (Tallahassee, Daytona Beach, Tampa, Lakeland, West Palm Beach and Miami) are connected to our system and attorneys could go to those courts and argument remotely to here. We have tested it and it works fine, but we never actually used it. On occasion when one of our justices is traveling on the date of the weekly case and administrative conference they will use the system to participate from a remote location in the conference. That works very well. As Judge Monaco noted the 1st district court of appeal used it extensively in the past, primarily for workers’ compensation appeals. I worked at that court at the time and it worked well and saved attorneys (although not the state) a lot of money. I am not sure if they still do it.
Court Clerk Thomas D. Hall
Gary, we do not use video conferencing for arguments, although it was done on a few occasions when someone on trial at one of the state couldn’t make it to the other or the like. So, we have no rules or procedure. The subject is worth exploring as things get tighter. The trial courts use it often for arraignments and pretrial hearings in criminal cases and commitment proceedings and by copy of this memo I am asking our administrator if there are any rules or procedures.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year.
Edwin H. Stern
North Tower, 11th Floor
Morristown, N.J. 07906
Hi Gary: Yes, our court has seriously considered using video conferencing for oral arguments. As you may recall, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, though a unified court, is divided into four districts, with a chambers location in each district. Travel by lawyers to oral arguments is therefore made easier than it would be if, say, the court were in only one location–such as Madison, the capital. But travel is still very time consuming and costly nevertheless. This is especially so in the district comprising the whole northern half of the state.
So, we inquired about the possibility of purchasing video conferencing equipment for each of the four districts. The cost estimates were much greater than we expected. (about $35,000 per). Consequently, the chief justice of our supreme court refused to put it in our budget. She suggested that we try a pilot program in our northern district first, with a panel from that district going to the local county courthouse that already had video conferencing equipment and using that equipment to connect to the local courthouses of the attorneys who were to participate in oral argument. But each of the local courthouses involved refused to participate. They said the equipment was paid for by the their county, belonged to the county and was for use by their law enforcement personnel and by their trial court judges. So, the pilot program never got off the ground.
Our court is still desirous of using video conferencing. We keep putting it on the front burner at every budgeting session. But to no avail so far. We will have to wait for the day when it is feasible. I guess the stars will be aligned when three things occur: (1) our State’s budget crisis is over; (2) video conferencing becomes more commonplace and relatively less expensive; and (3) the state’s lawyers begin to agitate for using this technology in oral arguments to the extent that our supreme court and our legislature take notice.
I wish you the best of luck and look forward to hearing all about your experience. If successful, I will use it to press my case with the Chief Justice.
Judge Richard Brown
The Eighth Court of Appeals has been doing video conference oral argument since the late 1990’s. As you probably know, we are one of the 14 intermediate appellate courts in Texas and for years the El Paso court has been received cases transferred from some of the busier courts for the purpose of equalizing the dockets of the courts. Prior to video conferencing, the court was required to hear the oral arguments in the district from which the case was transferred. Typicall this meant that we had to travel to Houston or Dallas. My predecessor, CJ Richard Barajas, secured legislative funding for equipment and statutory changes to provide that courts that had video conferencing capability could required oral argument via that means as opposed to traveling to the transferring district. We also had two other major population communities 400-miles away – Odessa and Midland, and we offered those parties to option of having oral arguments by video or coming to El Paso.
In the early years we had a dedicated T-1 line connected to the camera and two monitors that were position in from of our bench. Since we were then the only court with video conferencing capability, the remote sites were, and still are, for that matter, universities and colleges. Presently, our video-conference oral arguments are done with SMU School of Law in Dallas. SMU has a small moot court classroom with provides a very appropriate venue for arguments .
St Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, Texas has a very elaborate system and could very easily serve as a remote site for us.
The equipment is pretty common these days and a dedicated T1 isn’t needed. We use a DSL connection and it is almost as good and a lot cheaper.
More if you need more,
David Wellington Chew
Eighth Court Appeals of Texas
500 East San Antonio, Suite 1203
We too are considering it but Division One of our court actually conducted a couple a few months ago. Not aware of any special rules. Attorneys just filed a motion to do it via video and that motion was granted and the IT guys made it happen. We now put our oral arguments on our intranet site (Division One doesn’t as far as I know) I’m not sure how the video conferencing interfaces with that program. Hope all is well with you.
Judge Christine Quinn-Brintnall
Florida’s First District Court of Appeal was the first court in the country to have oral arguments by video teleconferencing. The First District Court of Appeal is located in Tallahassee, Florida and is an intermediate appellate court with jurisdiction over all civil and non-capital criminal appeals in the northern 32 counties of Florida; state wide jurisdiction over all state workers’ compensation appeals, and concurrent jurisdiction with the four other district courts over appeals from administrative cases but we hear over half of all the administrative appeals in Florida. The major population centers in Florida and their distance from Tallahassee include Miami 500 miles, West Palm Beach 400 miles, Ft. Myers 350 miles, Tampa 250 miles and Orlando 250 miles. All of these locations are outside of the geographical jurisdiction of this court except for workers’ compensation cases in which this court has state wide jurisdiction. Major population centers within the First DCA’s geographical area include Jacksonville 175 miles and Pensacola 200 miles. This court, last year, had filed 6,618 cases and disposed of 7,275 cases. The case mix is 49% criminal, 23% civil, 28% administrative, which includes 8% workers’ compensation cases.
This court first began experimenting with televideo oral argument in March of 1988 from Tallahassee to Miami. In 1992, 1993 and 1994, the court worked with the Florida Legislature and Florida Department of Management Services to develop a televideo conferencing capability with the next test occurring in March of 1994. Subsequent to that in 1994, the court established televideo conferencing and got the legislative authority to collect $150 per case where a case was held by televideo. January 17, 1995, the first televideo conference oral arguments were conducted from the courthouse to a location in Miami. I am attaching a copy of the timeline involving some of the significant milestones in establishing this capability along with references to this court’s administrative orders which can be found at our web site which is www.1dca.org. Also on the web site you can find the oral argument schedules and archived oral arguments, including those conducted by televideo conferencing that have occurred since 2002.
Additionally, I am providing an electronic copy of the First District Court of Appeal’s oral arguments that were granted, as well as the numbers that were done by video conferencing and the percentage of total arguments that were conducted by video versus live. You will note that the highest percentage was 25-26% of our cases by televideo conferencing and those occurred between the years of 1998 and 2001 and were received from up to nine different locations within the state of Florida. In 2001, the court began experiencing technical problems with signals being dropped during oral argument or freezes occurring during the oral argument transmission which would result in losing either video or sound during oral arguments. Based on those problems, the court issued an administrative order and discontinued the use of oral arguments. Prior to that discontinuance, the policy for granting oral argument was a presumption that if a party had oral argument scheduled from the location in which the court had a remote site from which oral argument could be transmitted between Tallahassee and that location, that it was presumed that the party wanted oral argument by video conferencing. This contributed substantially to the number of oral arguments conducted by video conferencing. When the court got the Office of State Court Administrator for Florida to rectify the problems that we were having with the video conferencing dropouts, we reestablished a policy of having oral arguments by video in 2003 but the judges elected to make the policy of having oral argument by video optional with the litigants. The policy then required that any oral argument had to be requested by the party requesting oral argument and they had to have the consent of the opposing counsel. Based on these changes of policy, the number of oral arguments dropped off to less than five per year. In its hay day I would have to say that the court was fairly accepting of conducting oral arguments but there were a few judges who would prefer to have only live oral arguments. Again, with 15 judges it is not unusual to have minority views. As to the counsel and litigant’s acceptance of oral argument by video, we always found that those who used the system got to where they thought it was helpful and saved money though many would say they prefered the intimacy of live oral arguments. I do know that in the new courthouse that we are currently building, we are dedicating a smaller courtroom as a technology courtroom and will have the capability to handle oral arguments by video in that second courtroom. In the current facility, we only have the one courtroom and we recently went back to rolling in the equipment to have oral arguments by video. In fact, there is an oral argument scheduled this week by video which will be the first that we have had in 2009 and this year. I am including a copy of the Florida Statute which authorizes me as clerk to collect for oral arguments. We charge $150 which is paid by the requesting party prior to the oral argument and that legislation is contained in Section 35.22(7). I am also providing copies of the administrative orders that we have issued involving televideo conferencing beginning with Administrative Order 94-1, 96-4, 99-2, 01-2 and 03-1. Additionally, I am providing you with a copy of our order that is sent to parties when we have televideo oral arguments scheduled. Also included is a copy of the timeline involving televideo oral arguments and other information that I found in our files dealing with oral arguments by video conferencing from previous years. If you have questions you can contact me at (850) 488-6151, 301 S. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1850 or via email at email@example.com.
Jon S. Wheeler
Clerk of Court
First District Court of Appeal
301 S. Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1850
Thanks for sharing this Gary. It was interesting to read that televideo oral arguments were discontinued for a long time due to technical problems. And it was also interesting to learn that, once the administrative rules were changed so as to require the consent of all parties as a condition precedent to televideo oral argument, it’s use dropped off to 5%.
As I recently informed our State Bar leadership, if we are going to have video conferencing in the appellate courts of Wisconsin, the impetus is going to have to come from the bar. One advantage of televideo oral arguments is that it saves travel time and expense for attorneys and litigants. But, there is another reason that is just as important as cost. In Wisconsin, the rule is that our court need only hear oral argument when it desires. Less than 5% of our cases are orally argued, as a result. One of the more continuous battles within the bar has been between those who want more oral arguments and those who say it is too expensive and that oral arguments are often unnecessary. A recurring theme is that the value of oral argument to the court is often disproportionate to the time and effort of the attorneys. If the bar wants to adequately address and try to resolve this timeless issue, it can lobby for televideo and a new rule that says the court shall have one if one of the parties wants it and agrees to pay the fee. The result might be more oral arguments at less cost and travel time. But as I said in my earlier response to you, nothing will happen on this issue if the political will isn’t there.
Thanks again for sharing this.
Judge Richard Brown, Wisconsin Court of Appeals
We do not. Out supreme court has done it, but although I don’t know for sure, I believe it’s very little used by them.
Judge J.D. Smith, Georgia Court of Appeals
Our appellate court is located in Santa Ana, California. We have been conducting oral argument on criminal cases by video for about 12 years and won an award for the program in 1999.
We have two big screen televisions on the walls of our courtroom and small screens for each of the three justices hearing the case. A ceiling mounted camera focuses on the bench and a wall camera focuses on the podium where counsel argues. A special room is set up at the San Diego Court, some 100 miles away, for counsel to argue. Either party or both may argue from the San Diego court by video or here in person. Because the Attorney General’s office for all of California south of Los Angeles (an area with approximately 11 million in population) is located in San Diego, their counsel usually argue from there by video. In California, the local prosecuting district attorneys do not handle the appeal, the state attorney general does.
Considerable time is saved by both the attorney general’s office and the appellate defense counsel located if located in the San Diego area. If appellate defense counsel is located in this area, they usually argue in person.
The large screens in both courts are split showing the person arguing and the justices on the bench. The justices screen show only the person arguing. Each courtroom has a systems administrator (computer specialist) monitoring the proceedings so adjustments can be made during the course of argument.
Our program has been quite successful although in “big” cases, counsel usually appear in person so they can better read the body language of the justices.
I hope you will be able to get out this way so we can show you the system in operation. Please feel free to give me a ring and I will be happy to answer any of your questions.
Judge David Sills, David.Sills@jud.ca.gov
On behalf of Chief Judge Sara Combs, I am responding to your inquiry concerning the conduct of oral argument by video conference. The Kentucky Court of Appeals has not experimented with video conference for oral argument, however, on occasion, our monthly three-Judge motion panels have been conducted telephonically. While not directly responsive to your question, a bit of information about our motion panel telephonic conferencing might be of interest to you.
Because the offices of Kentucky Court of Appeals Judges are scattered throughout the Commonwealth, inclement weather, illness, or other unforeseen circumstances have made the ability to participate by telephone convenient. It is important that the presiding Judge of the motion panel be present with the motions attorneys in our central office to sign orders at the conclusion of the panel meeting, but sometimes even that is not possible. Despite the obvious convenience of participating by telephone, I think most of our Judges would agree that telephonic conferencing somewhat limits and constrains the give and take of discussion among the Judges. In other words, our experience has been that it is preferable for all Judges to be physically present during motion panel.
At the present time, the Kentucky Court of Appeals has no plans to expand the telephonic motion panels or to experiment with video conference for oral argument. Please contact me if you have questions of if I can be of additional assistance in any way.
Ann P. Swain
Chief Staff Attorney
Kentucky Court of Appeals
360 Democrat Drive
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601
We have talked about it but have never done it
Judge Rosemary Sackett