Family Law

Family Law News Issue 2, 2021, Volume 43, No. 2

What Were They Thinking? A Look at the Benefits and Pitfalls of Using Audio/Video Platform in Hearings and Trials

Commissioner Michael Bishay

The Honorable Michael Bishay is a Superior Court Commissioner, currently assigned to Alameda County Superior Court’s only dedicated family law settlement department. He is the past Supervising Judicial Officer of Family Law (San Bernardino county – high desert) and past Faculty Member of CJER which provides state-wide education and training to Judicial Officers. Prior to becoming a Commissioner, he was a board certified family law specialist. Commissioner Bishay also served as an FBI Analyst/Contractor with Top Secret Clearance, and as an Adjunct Professor of Law. Over the years, Commissioner Bishay has presented numerous lectures and written articles about a variety of family law and domestic violence topics.

Afew weeks ago, I heard about a doctor who appeared via Zoom for his traffic violation hearing while performing surgery on a patient. I wondered what this doctor was thinking. The same question comes to mind when parents decide to bring their minor children to watch their parents’ family court disputes and listen to words that can inflict great harm to them.

When hearings and trials were conducted in person, the party’s attorney, bailiff, or courtroom clerk ensured that a minor child was not present in the courtroom when the judicial officer took the bench unless that judicial officer previously permitted the minor child to be present to testify. Unfortunately, these filters do not exist when a child appears on everyone’s screen unannounced during an audio/video platform hearing. Nor can the court control family, friends, and significant others’ misbehavior that would have resulted in that person being escorted out of the courtroom prior to the inception of remote hearings. In this article I hope to address the steps litigants and attorneys must take to ensure a safe and beneficial audio/video remote hearing.

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