The future of law is unfolding on videochat.
A courtroom in Texas is holding what is believed to be the first virtual trial over the videoconferencing program Zoom. It's a real trial for a real case, but the court is also using it as an experiment about how to conduct legal proceedings during the pandemic.
The case, a dispute over insurance policy, was held in a condensed format on Monday, Reuters reports. The novelty of the situation revealed a number of issues that the legal system needs to sort out.
During the trial, Judge Emily Miskel frequently helped jurors with tech issues. In the jury selection part of the trial, which Miskel uploaded to YouTube, several potential jurors had trouble using Zoom.
Some jurors spoke without realizing they were muted, others needed help adjusting their displays, and some disconnected from the call — all glitches that Miskel had to stop the proceedings to fix.
The rest of the trial occurred behind closed doors, so it's unclear whether the tech hiccups continued. But, Gizmodo reports, the use of videoconferencing could lead to more problems down the road, especially regarding new forms of bias.
Jurors may decide someone with a home office is more credible than someone sitting in a small apartment, for instance — raising questions about how fair a videoconference trial really can be.
READ MORE: Texas Court Experimenting With Its First Zoom Jury Trial [Gizmodo]
More on virtual law: Virtual Reality Could Be Used to “Transport” Jurors to a Crime Scene