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In the past few years, Zoom has seen truly explosive growth, reaching over 40 million participants, collectively communicating for over 1 billion minutes. We have made the world a little smaller, helped reduce the worldwide emissions footprint, and served a continually-growing customer base in education, technology, medicine, and a variety of other areas. Among those customers, we find Paul Kiesel, attorney at law, founder of Kiesel Law LLP, and President Elect of the Los Angeles Bar Association.
We’ve recently run a case study on Mr. Kiesel, and that is when we learned of an untapped part of the market that could certainly make use of video to fulfill its purpose more efficiently: the court system. We decided to speak with Paul Kiesel in-depth about the prospective use of video in the courtroom — and even discussed previous attempts to use it — to understand how Zoom can play a role in a system that, at the very least, appears to require a push forward with proper and versatile video technology. Here’s our interview:
Zoom: What are your personal views on video communications tools being used in the courtroom?
Paul Kiesel: Video communication in the courtroom is the natural extension of technology and it assists our judicial system in finding a way to create better connectivity and improve environmental costs associated with travel, time, and space. To me, it is the natural progression from the written word to telephones, and now, to using video as a way to interact with people.
Z: How much as a whole do you believe that the United States court system is opening up to video conferencing among judges and attorneys?
PK: My impression is that it is very slow to adopt. This is new technology, and lawyers as well as the legal system tend to be slow to evolve since our whole existence is based on history. Forward thinking isn’t always immediate, but I think that there’s certainly a growing acceptance among lawyers and judges that this technology can go a long way towards improving the delivery of services to litigants and to the court.
Z: So, would you say that “clinging onto history” is the biggest challenge for adopting video conferencing in the court system?
PK: No, I don’t think so. I think that the challenge for the court first of all is the technology. The courts need to have the bandwidth in-house that can make this a relatively seamless interaction so that people can easily pick up on social cues. The first piece of the puzzle is securing a proper technology infrastructure for video. Then you need the cameras and displays. Finally, you have to provide a way for people to connect with one another. This is the biggest challenge. Once you have a technology that connects people, the rest will come along.
Z: Would you say that this technology could be used for witnesses that feel uncomfortable appearing in the same room as one of the parties in a litigation?
PK: I’m glad you asked this question because, in fact, on Monday, I have a client who is alleging someone assaulted her and she is being brought in to testify in a hearing about this particular matter. She does not want to be in the same physical space as the alleged perpetrator, and the defendant is going to appear remotely through video.
Z: So, in cases like these, do you believe that video conferencing might be a preferable option?
PK: Well, I’m not sure I’d even be comfortable with an appearance on video, where I’d have to see the perpetrator. The ability to get rid of the image so that I could not see the person might make me comfortable. This is a sort of unique question, considering the battle between physicality and the mere presence of an image.
Z: Do you think that testimonies would actually be less powerful over video?
PK: No, I don’t think so. If you were speaking to me as a witness from the Bay Area, and I was in a courtroom in Los Angeles, and there was no way that you could be at the court on time for your presence, if I could just open up Zoom and let you testify, this would be a gift to everybody. Under oath, your testimony is as reliable in video as if you were physically in my presence.
Z: In The State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman, another video conferencing solution was used to bring in a witness remotely for testimony. The call was disrupted by a series of — for lack of a better phrase — internet trolls. How can something like this be prevented? Do you think that Zoom is more equipped for this situation?
PK: I wasn’t monitoring that testimony, but what I heard was that they were using a very open video conferencing product as the platform for the presentation. This opened the doors for people to mess around with it. If you have a system like CourtCall, or Zoom, which provides an encrypted and private communication environment, that is essential to what litigants need and what the court needs in order to have testimony protected. In that particular scenario, the idea was there, but the execution was not.
Z: What changes would courts have to make in order to be fully compatible with video conferencing?
PK: They would require the implementation of fiber optic or high-speed cable access that provides them with a high-bandwidth environment to allow for seamless communication. It would also require a cultural change where a judge is going to be comfortable engaging over video with witnesses, parties, and lawyers, which is the more difficult piece of the puzzle. Judges will need to be comfortable engaging in remote appearances where they can see the attorneys, litigants, and witnesses, and they can see the Judge.
Z: Continuing on this theme, how does the court system as a whole, including judges and attorneys, view video conferencing with regards to witness testimonies and cross examinations?
PK: My impression is that they are intrigued. They are interested, but uncertain. I think you can have a true champion of the technology, and you’ve got motivated judicial officers that want to initially embrace it. There will also need to be legislative changes that provide for the validity of this platform and its general acceptance.
PK: In California, up until recently, these were called telephonic appearances. To call something like a Zoom meeting a teleconference is tantamount to comparing it to Morse code as a form of communication. We need to be speaking in terms of “remote appearances.” We haven’t even considered the way remote appearances may appear in another generation. There may even be holograms of my image projected from my office in a courtroom. We need to change “telephonic appearances” to “remote appearances” to encompass a broader spectrum of communications tools.
Z: To sum this up, we need to change the nomenclature…
PK: Right. I would say that we need to be more open and not use words like “telephonic.” We’re no longer talking about telephone calls. It’s antiquated technology. The telephone is lovely, but that’s not what we’re doing right now. In fact, we’re not even doing a video appearance. We’re calling it “video” because we don’t have another word for what this is. This isn’t a video. This is digital imaging of some sort, and we call these video calls because that’s what we are comfortable with. I don’t know what the nomenclature is going to be, but it needs to be open enough that we don’t risk using dated terms as future solutions roll in.
Zoom and the Future of the Justice System
Paul Kiesel has been using Zoom to navigate the legal system and reduce his operating costs very successfully. If anyone knows what kinds of applications Zoom would have in a courtroom, it would definitely be someone with his particular experience. While there may be some hurdles to overcome, it seems as if though widespread use of video in the court system may soon become a reality. When that time comes, we look forward to ensuring that witnesses, litigants, attorneys, judges, and clerks can each perform their tasks without impediment. One day, courts may very well be pulled into a future in which travel, emissions, and time are saved. Zoom can be the solution that raises the efficiency and “user-friendliness” of the law in much the same way our software has excelled at providing video meetings to millions around the world!
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