COVID-19 and Virtual Bankruptcy Hearing Protocols

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there have been many changes in daily business practices. These changes also apply to the court system. In many courts across Maryland, virtual hearings are still taking place to ensure that all parties can be included, without risking the safety of one another. While virtual hearings may not look the same as a traditional hearing, there are certain standards of conduct that must be met. Here, the bankruptcy attorneys at Grossbart, Portney & Rosenberg, P.A. discuss virtual hearing protocols for Maryland residents, and how this can impact the continuation of your case.

Maryland’s Court Reopening Plan and Current Procedures

At this time, Maryland has entered Phase 4 of the court’s reopening plan. In this phase, District Courts of Maryland and Circuit Courts will resume non-jury trials and contested hearings in criminal, civil, family, and juvenile matters. As some courts begin to reopen, many will still remain fully virtual, requiring one or all of the participants to utilize video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Meets to conduct their hearing. Generally, courts will be using Zoom for conferencing, and there are resources available for individuals who need additional assistance, such as interpreters, as well as specific instructions for each court proceeding to ensure that all parties are able to have uninterrupted access. While these hearings are online, it is important to note that court etiquette must be maintained as if you were attending your hearing in person. Below are some additional tips to help you navigate your virtual bankruptcy hearing.

Dress and Act Professionally in Accordance with the Court

One of the primary things you should do when in a court hearing is to both dress and act professionally. Although you will likely only be seen from the waist up, maintaining a professional appearance is important. This shows respect for the judge, your attorneys, and other members of the court. Additionally, allow extra time when setting up your virtual hearing on Zoom to remain on time. In these hearings, there are often virtual waiting rooms that open 15 minutes prior to your scheduled hearing time. Finally, be sure to thoroughly read through any instructional material given to you by the courts, so that you are fully aware of how to proceed. If you are still confused, speak with your attorney as soon as possible to alleviate any confusion, and ensure you are on the same page before entering your virtual hearing. Adjusting to these times can be difficult but making sure your appearance in court is favorable can prevent you from additional stress and future consequences.

Be Aware of Body Language, Voice Tone and Background Noise

When you are in your virtual hearing, it is also extremely important to be acutely aware of your body language and tone of voice. First, do not speak in your court proceeding unless explicitly asked to, and be sure to follow the guidance of your attorney, as they have extensive experience of general court hearings. Speaking and moving over video can be difficult, especially depending on your camera or voice quality. Movements and tone of voice can be easily misconstrued over video, so be sure to speak in a calm, collected voice whenever you are asked, and keep body language to a minimum. Be sure to minimize any distractions during your hearing. Make sure you are in a quiet environment with little to no background noise that could distract you from directly paying attention to your hearing and others speaking. Have a backup plan or strategy in place in the event that your connection gets cut or there are other interruptions. Finally, seek the help of a qualified attorney, such as the Maryland bankruptcy attorneys at Grossbart, Portney & Rosenberg, P.A. to assist you through the process.

Discuss Your Options with Bankruptcy Attorneys at Grossbart, Portney & Rosenberg, P.A.

This time can be extremely stressful, and if you are in the midst of court proceedings, navigating your case can feel overwhelming. As you work with your attorney to discuss your options and the requirements of the court, make sure to research virtual hearing etiquette to keep your case moving forward in an efficient manner. At Grossbart, Portney & Rosenberg, P.A., our attorneys are optimized for Zoom and Google Meets, and are able to represent you anywhere in Maryland, even at your initial bankruptcy hearing. To see how our attorneys can assist you through your bankruptcy case, contact our Baltimore office today.