Dupage County Courthouse to Conduct Court Proceedings Over Zoom

Dupage County Courthouse to Conduct Court Proceedings Over Zoom

Bridget Guerin, Staff Writer

This past month, the Dupage County Courthouse began conducting criminal court cases through the use of Zoom video conference platform. While the civil divisions began Zoom proceedings in May, questions of constitutionality, issues with courtroom etiquette and criminal procedure rules made it more complicated to begin conducting Zoom proceedings in criminal court. 

Chief Judge Daniel P. Guerin, who implemented and currently oversees this new format, mentioned both positive and negative aspects of using Zoom. 

“Both the Constitution and Illinois Supreme Court rules require a defendant’s personal appearance in court for certain critical stages during a case,” said Guerin, “In addition, the Constitution provides a defendant the right to confront witnesses against him. These rights are difficult to protect when conducting a trial via Zoom. These are one of several constitutional issues we have encountered while attempting to implement Zoom in courtroom proceedings.”

 Other challenges Guerin mentioned include the training and educating of judges, attorneys, and self-represented litigants on how to access and use Zoom, the task of ensuring that courts are accessible to the public while being secured against efforts to disrupt the court and numerous technological issues. However, Guerin mentioned that using Zoom has its perks. 

“Zoom is very useful for certain parts of legal proceedings because it allows attorneys to more efficiently appear in numerous different courtrooms and courthouses without the time and expense of travel,” said Guerin.

Guerin related the challenges of conducting court through Zoom to the challenges of conducting educational classes through Zoom, as students and teachers across the country are currently experiencing.  One particular similarity Guerin mentioned was the degradation of the typical formality, dignity and decorum expected in both the classroom and the courtroom.  

“Attending court through Zoom may tend to erode the public’s respect for the orders and judgments of the court because people will become accustomed to ‘appearing in court’ while sitting at home in a casual manner or while driving a car,” said Guerin, “The dignity and formality of courtroom proceedings may be degraded as people view Zoom calls as ‘drive-thru justice.’ ”