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Florida Lawyers Had to Be Reminded to Wear Shirts During Virtual Court Appearances

Judge Bailey

A Florida judge was not pleased that the attorneys making virtual court appearances during the coronavirus pandemic didn’t even bother to wear a shirt or get out of bed. Broward Circuit Judge Dennis Bailey felt compelled to write a note about this on the Weston Bar Association website. It was quite a post.

After Bailey said some words hopeful for legal community and family health, he shifted his attention to the virtues and vices of Zoom videoconferencing.

“The Civil courts have finally gotten the green-light to begin using Zoom to run dockets and conduct hearings. They’ll go to school on the lessons learned by the Family judges and hope for a very smooth track ahead,” Bailey wrote.

Learning lessons and not grinding the judicial system to a halt? Great! Then came the bad news: legal professionals have had some virtual courtroom decorum problems. It’s not just that attorneys have dressed in casual attire, said Bailey. One male lawyer didn’t even bother to wear a shirt, and one female attorney didn’t even bother to get out of bed:

One comment that needs sharing and that is the judges would appreciate it if the lawyers and their clients keep in mind these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings. They are not casual phone conversations. It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up your poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.

Legal peers were amused by these Floridian foibles.

Bailey acknowledged that these are uncharted waters, but said that legal professionals need to do the best they can “running on one of those miniature spare tires we pulled from the trunk rather than a ‘real’ tire.”

“But it will get us to where we need to go if we decrease our speed and increase our caution and shorten our trip. Resolve as many issues as you can through negotiation and then buckle up. We’ll get there, but it may get a little bumpy along the way,” he said.

[Image via 17th Judicial Circuit]

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Matt Naham is managing editor of Law&Crime. He formerly worked as news editor and weekend editor at Rare.