Millions of people around the world watched as Judge Roy Ferguson of the 394th District of Texas kept his composure during a Zoom call when attorney Rod Ponton appeared in a cat filter. What many never saw or heard was Judge Ferguson’s subsequent tweet when he shared the video:
“IMPORTANT ZOOM TIP: If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom Video Options to be sure the filters are off. This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th. “
“These fun moments are a by-product of the legal profession’s dedication to ensuring that the justice system continues to function in these tough times. Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around.”
Courts have been functioning virtually for nearly a year and in that year, there have been stories of attorneys appearing from the beach wearing tank tops, litigants in bed wearing nothing but a bra, someone in a doctor’s office waiting room, kids waking parents up who were supposed to be on the Zoom, and my personal favorite: the litigant who walks around the block during the entire hearing, making everyone on the Zoom call dizzy. So many of these could have been internet sensations, but I doubt any of them would have had the composure and “grace” that Mr. Ponton and Judge Ferguson did.
The CATastrophe teaches us that a court proceeding is a court proceeding regardless if you are in the actual courthouse. The rules of professionalism should apply whether you are the attorney, litigant or a witness. You should find a quiet room in your house (or use headphones). If you have to go outside, sit or stand still, or consider using your vehicle. Many hearings have taken place from vehicles because that is the only place someone can find peace and quiet.
Remember the proceedings are being recorded. The judge is going to make a decision based on what you are saying, so you want to make sure you are seen and heard. There are no second chances; those are called appeals and in many cases are limited in scope, lengthy and costly, so now is the time to make your argument and present it well. And if you’re going to use a filter, may I suggest VSCO? I’ve heard it’s what a certain famous family uses to “keep up” with their social media. 😉