The Fifth District Court of Appeal has put in place a pilot program allowing attorneys and parties to appear at Oral Argument remotely. The limited program is the first of its kind in Florida.
The details of the new program
Starting on June 5, 2018, the Fifth District will allow parties set for Oral Argument to appear either in person at its Daytona Beach courthouse, or remotely from the Marion County Courthouse in Ocala. The details are set forth in Administrative Order No. AO5D18-01 [.pdf]. In brief,
- Participation is completely voluntary, and either one or both sides may participate.
- Any technological problem on the day of argument will result in switching to standard teleconference.
- Remote oral arguments will be placed first on the daily docket.
- Courtroom decorum rules apply at the remote location, so no flip flops!
How to sign up
To participate, a party must file a “Notice of Remote Argument,” copied to the opposing party, and send an email to the Fifth District’s clerk. These must be filed and sent no later than seven days before the scheduled oral argument. No order will issue – the remote argument is deemed granted upon the Marshal replying with a confirmation email.
Is this the future?
Probably, but it’s not all positive.
There are many benefits to the application of technology to the judiciary–see some of our past articles on e-filing, electronic access, and other technology changes for some examples. Travel for oral argument is not an insignificant burden on parties and attorneys, both in time and money. Removing that barrier will allow parties freedom and a more academic determination as to whether to pursue oral argument.
But there is certainly something to be said about appearing before the courts in person. The parties only have a few precious minutes of face time with the court, and anyone who has used videoconferencing on their own knows that it is possible for something to be lost in translation. The question will be whether remote appearances can adequately provide the same level of familiarity and experience. Only time will tell, and the answer will probably not be determined until long after June 5.