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Coronavirus & COVID-19 Preparedness

Scheduling Video Conference Hearings

The Second Division is scheduling proceedings held by video conference at specific times.  This scheduling allows the courts to share resources and assists in an orderly administration of individual matters.

Proceedings by Video Conference

The Court is using Cisco’s Webex to hold video-conference proceedings.  These proceedings involve both defendants who are in custody and those who are on release. 


These video-conference proceedings are scheduled at specific times.  For all hearings, the Webex room can be found at https://hamiltontn.webex.com/join/Division2


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Frequently Asked Questions: Video Conferencing

The Why: Reasons for Having Video Conference Hearings

1.  What are the advantages of having video conference hearings? 

The biggest advantage of video conference hearings is that it allows people to participate in the same hearing from different physical locations.  In this way, in-person contact can be minimized—and the risks of transmitting COVID-19 can be reduced—but the participants can still see and hear each other.


Of course, these types of video conference hearings may be unfamiliar to many people, including lawyers. To that end, the Court is happy to allow lawyers to “test drive” the system before a hearing so that they can see how it works.  Simply contact the Court, and we will make the appropriate arrangements.    


The How: Platform and Equipment Needed

1.  What “platform” is being used for video conference hearings? 

The Court uses Cisco’s Webex for video conference hearings, particularly if the hearings involve someone who is in custody at the Hamilton County Jail or workhouse.  However, the Court can also use Zoom for hearings so long as the accused is not in custody.


2.  What equipment do I need to participate in video conference hearings?

The only “equipment” required to participate in a video conference hearing is a device that has a camera, microphone, and internet access. Virtually all tablets and cell phones have these capabilities, as well as most modern desktop and laptop computers.  Cisco’s Webex is compatible with Widows, iOS, and Android operating systems.  

 

3.  Do I need a special app or software to participate?

No, all video conferences can be accessed through a web browser, such as Chrome, Explorer and Safari.  However, users may also download an app for tablets and phones for easier use. 


The Where: How to Access the Virtual Courtroom

1.  How do I access the video conference “room”? 

For all hearings, the Cisco WebEx room can be found here (https://hamiltontn.webex.com/join/Division2).


In addition, all scheduled hearings are noted on the Court’s online calendar.  Each of these calendar entries has a web link to the video conference “room” that observers may use to access a particular hearing. 


2.  When I log into the “room,” I do not see the hearing.  Do I have to be admitted to the “room”? 

Yes.  When first logging into a video conference hearing, visitors are automatically placed into an online “waiting room.”  The Court then admits visitors to the video conference hearing when the hearing is ready to begin. 


The When: The Process of Scheduling

1.  How does the Court schedule video conference hearings? 

The video conference hearings are scheduled using “appointment times” requested over the Court’s website below.  Because some proceedings naturally take longer than others, the scheduling is made based upon the type of hearing requested.

Please note that the Court will not confirm a scheduled hearing unless the time is convenient to all parties involved and the matter is ready for judicial resolution.


2.  What types of hearings are being held by video conference? 

The Court is using video conference hearings for pleas and agreed resolutions of other matters, legal arguments, and evidentiary hearings. With the exception of jury trials and arraignments, the Court contemplates using video conferencing for most of its proceedings. 


Please note that arraignments may still be conducted over the existing video arraignment technology, and this technology does not permit public access. As such, individual and media access to the courtroom may be permitted for those persons interested in attending particular arraignments. 


The What: The Mechanics of Video Conference Hearings

1.  Are people held in custody able to participate in video conference hearings? 

Yes.  The Court has worked extensively with Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and Hamilton County’s Information Technology Department to develop these solutions for the benefit of those being held in custody. 


Both the Hamilton County jail and workhouse have worked well with the courts to dedicate special rooms and equipment to allow a person being held in custody to participate fully in these hearings. 


2.  Are members of the media, family members, or the public able to view video conference hearings?

Yes, of course. So that the public and the media can see what hearings may be held, all scheduled hearings are noted on the Court’s online calendar. Each of these calendar entries has a web link to the video conference “room” that observers may use to access a particular hearing.  That link is also here.


Although each hearing is scheduled at a particular time, please note that the Court could be “early” or “late” to a particular hearing depending on how other matters have progressed. 


That said, a couple of rules may also apply to public access:  


  • First, the Court will generally mute the sound on public observers to the hearing so as to prevent any interruptions.  


  • Second, if an observer is likely to be called as a witness in the video conference hearing, the Court may not allow the observer to participate in or see the hearing prior to his or her testimony. 



3.  How does the Court admit exhibits during video conference hearings? 

The Cisco Webex platform allows for documents to be electronically shared and viewed by all parties. 


Perhaps the easiest way, however, for the parties to handle exhibits is to email the proposed exhibits to the Court ahead of the hearing.  The Court will then see that the admitted exhibits are printed and delivered to the court reporter as part of the official record of the proceedings.


4.  How does the Court maintain a record of video conference hearings? 

During each video conference hearing, our court reporter will be one of the persons attending. The Court has worked with its court reporters to develop a system to create and maintain an audio record of court proceedings as required by law. 


Please note that the Court will not video record any proceedings absent an extreme need to do so.