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Earlier in the COVID-19 tempest we wrote about many of the things our firm has been able to do to keep cases moving forward – using Zoom (mostly) and other videoconferencing platforms to meet with clients, take and defend depositions, mediate and arbitrate cases, and attend court hearings.

We’ll now add one more to the list, having completed our first trial held entirely on Zoom. Although our local courts have been handling a smattering of in-person jury trials, those have been few and far between since COVID hit. However, attorney Scott Staples had the opportunity recently to try a case in federal court to a judge (called a “bench trial”, i.e., no jury).

The procedures used by the court were somewhat novel, but necessary due to the pandemic. The only people in the courtroom were the judge, the judicial assistant, and a court reporter. The attorneys were in their respective offices sitting in front of computers. Our client came to our office to sit in front of a computer in a separate room from Scott. Medical witnesses that had not been put on video ahead of the trial testified from their offices or homes. Exhibits discussed with witnesses were pulled up on the attorney’s computer and shared with all other participants on their screens.

Trial by Zoom is not what any of us were trained for, and we can’t wait to get back in front of judges and juries in-person when it’s safe to do so. But making the best of a bad situation and pushing a case forward to resolution* using the tools available to us is something we’re quite proud of.

*What was the result, you may ask? As of this writing we don’t know yet. Unlike a jury, which deliberates for only hours or days because they have to get back to their lives, a judge deciding a case can take as much time as needed to come to a conclusion.

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About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012).

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