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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a drastic toll on citizens all over the world. The seriousness of this virus is alarming, forcing precautionary measures be taken in all aspects of our lives. Many public spaces are closed, and for the ones that are open, access is limited. Every business has been affected, but one sector that most people would not think of being impacted is our court system.

The Hawaii Court System made the following statement:

“The Hawaii State Judiciary is focused on ensuring the safety of all court users and Judiciary personnel in response to the COVID-19 virus. Judiciary representatives are working collaboratively with the Department of Health and other state agencies to ensure our response is timely and appropriate according to the law.”

So how does this affect Hawaii’s legal actions?

If you have had a fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms of COVID-19, you aren’t allowed to enter any judiciary facility. Similarly, if you have had close prolonged contact with a person who has COVID-19 or suspected to have, you will not be allowed to enter judiciary facilities. Additionally, the circuits are different with regard to recent travel. However, generally, you are not allowed in the court system if you have traveled and haven’t completed the mandatory quarantine.

Beginning in March of 2020, in-person appearances for civil, family and criminal dockets have been limited. Oral arguments in the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals and Supreme Court are being held remotely, through telephone or video conference, to minimize in-person contact during the pandemic. The chief judges of each circuit have devised circuit-specific plans to reduce the need for in-court appearances. Matters designated by the chief judge that are deemed to be held remotely are held by telephone or video conference.

What is a remote court hearing?

A remote court hearing is much like a court hearing, however, administered through a video or telephone conference platform. The initial determination of telephone or video conference is at the discretion of the presiding judge, which is based on access to the necessary technology for a video conference. The judge and the court staff are still present during this hearing.

The Hawaii State Judiciary utilizes Cisco WebEx and Zoom software for the videoconferences. If you are scheduled to appear at a hearing, the court will notify and will send instructions on how to do so. If you do not have internet or the necessary data to participate in video calls, you may join via telephone and participate strictly through audio.

Here are some quick professional tips for appearing before the court via videoconference:

  • Dress as you would if you were in-person

  • Sit in front of a neutral background

  • Log in at least ten minutes before the start time

  • Keep your microphone muted when you are not speaking

  • Close all other programs on your computer

  • Use headphones if possible

– THE SANDS LAW GROUP, APLC

Austen Gersonde, Law Clerk

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