Published on: Saturday, June 5, 2021

In an opinion piece, a federal district judge wrote: As the COVID-19 pandemic ground on, courts around the country looked to continue rendering justice while respecting public-health guidelines. A tactic utilized by some, including my own, was the use of livestreaming platforms such as Zoom in place of in-person proceedings (article available here).

Those who advocate for continued use of this approach say that it does away with the formality of the courthouse and all that comes with it. This is precisely the problem. There are many lessons to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanded use of remote proceedings is not one of them.

As we transition out of the pandemic, I urge my colleagues to return to trying cases the way we did when Abraham Lincoln tried cases — live and in person. We are at a crossroads. In an appeal to perceived efficiencies, some of my colleagues have suggested that this remote make-do procedure become permanent. But something critically important would be lost.

Remote proceedings cheapen and trivialize the sacred ceremony that is a trial.