Policy, Deadlines, and Guidance
If your trial will be conducted via Zoom, please familiarize yourself with this document and its contents. You will be responsible for adherence to its direction and requirements.
The judicial officer shall be the administrator of the trial. All parties shall be required to sign into the hearing a minimum of fifteen (15) minutes before the start time. Each party shall be required to confirm a contact telephone number and email address the Court can use in case they are disconnected during the trial. Represented parties shall have the opportunity to communicate confidentially with their attorney by the use of either a phone or being “moved” into a virtual conference room by the judicial officer.
If at any time the judicial officer presiding over a virtual proceeding determines that the audio or video connection is so poor as to interfere with the fair administration of justice, the hearing shall be postponed until such time as a better connection can be obtained or the matter can be set for an in-court proceeding. It shall be the responsibility of a party or counsel to promptly inform the court if there has been a disruption of the communication that subsequently interferes with their ability to see or hear what is occurring during the virtual trial. An objection to the quality of a hearing must be made before the parties have rested or the objection shall be considered untimely.
Because this will be a remote trial, the following additional rules will apply:
- Exhibit and Witness List.
- Two weeks prior to trial, each party is to file with the court and send to the other party a document called “Exhibit and Witness List.” This list shall contain a list of witnesses that you intend to testify at trial. It shall also contain a list that briefly describes each exhibit (such as a document, audio or video recording, or physical object) that you intend to introduce at trial. Note that things like text messages or other electronically generated information need to be printed so it can be introduced at Court. Additionally, please note that documents already filed in the Court file are not considered by the Court unless they are admitted at trial. If you have previously filed documents that you want the Court to consider at trial, they need to be included on the “Witness and Exhibit List.” The petitioner is to start his/her exhibit list with exhibit number 1. The respondent is to start his/her exhibit list with exhibit 101.
- Exhibits. At least one week before trial, each party is required to:
- Gather Exhibits. Gather all of your exhibits identified in paragraph (1) above, and put them in the same order that they are identified in the exhibit list.
- Organize Exhibits. Either use numbered tabs, or place a blank piece of paper on top of each exhibit and write the exhibit number on that blank piece of paper.
- Redact. Be sure that you redact (black out) all personal identifying information including: social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and financial account numbers (except for the last four digits).
- Numbering of Multiple Page Exhibit. If an exhibit is more than one page, please number the exhibit. Handwriting page numbers in the bottom right-hand corner is acceptable.
- Exchange Exhibits. Make a copy of all exhibits you gathered in subparagraph (a) of this paragraph and mail those documents to the other party; parties can exchange documents via email by written agreement only (an email agreement to exchange documents via email is acceptable). If the parties agree to exchange documents via email, it will still be necessary for the receiving party to print the documents for their own use and for any witnesses (see paragraph 3 below).
- Copies of Exhibits. Make two (2) copies of all exhibits you gathered in subparagraph (a) above and mail those documents to the judicial assistant for your assigned department. The two copies should be in complete sets, for example – it should be two sets of exhibits 1-4, not two sets of exhibit 1, two sets of exhibit 2, etc.).
- Master Set of Exhibits. Each party is required to take the petitioner’s exhibits and respondent’s exhibits to create your own master set of exhibits. You must supply to each witness you intend to testify at trial only those exhibits that are relevant to their testimony and role in the case. The relevant exhibits provided to witnesses must be identical to the exhibits contained in the master set provided to the Court and may not contain any notes, highlighting, post-its, or any other changes or additions from the master set.
- Exhibit Notebook Certification. Each party will sign and file a form (attached) certifying that the exhibits provided to the witnesses are identical to the master set of exhibits, and do not contain any notes, highlighting, post-its, or any other changes or additions from the master.
- Email Addresses and Telephone Number. By noon, two court days before trial, each party shall send an email to the judicial assistant (copy to all parties) identifying the names, telephone numbers and email addresses of all witnesses who will testify at trial. If a person is to appear by phone only, the name of the person and that person’s phone number is to be provided. The Court discourages the use of phones for trial, unless video is not otherwise available. However, a witness appearing by telephone must be approved in advance by the Court. This information is used for two purposes: (1) permits the judicial assistant to send out the Zoom meeting invitation; and (2) permits the judicial assistant to know who is in the Zoom waiting room as only identified people will be admitted into the Zoom trial. Note that friends and family who are not testifying at trial will not be admitted to the trial. Anyone wishing to view the trial can go to CowlitzSuperiorCourt.us/courtstream, and click on the appropriate courtroom to see the trial.
- Use of Exhibits at Trial. The parties will refer to and use the exhibits as numbered in each party’s exhibit list. Moving for admission of agreed or stipulated exhibits at the beginning of trial is encouraged.
- Screen Sharing. Because the Court, parties, and witnesses will have their own notebooks, the use of “screen sharing” in Zoom is largely unnecessary and will only be allowed with permission of the Court.
- Exclusion of Witnesses. The Court imposes Evidence Rule (ER) 615 (Exclusion of Witnesses). Other than parties, no witness may view the live courtroom feed (CowlitzSuperiorCourt.us/courtstream) until after that person has testified. No party may communicate with another witness about any previous testimony in the case until after that witness has testified.
- Procedures for Witnesses.
- Witnesses shall appear by video conferencing unless the Court has authorized the witness to appear by telephone. The witness shall have a separate video feed from any attorney or party. The witness shall remain in a virtual “conference room” until the witness is called to testify. A witness may be telephoned by counsel, or, if not represented, the party, and prompted to log onto the video conference or audio conference (if approved by the court) when it is time for the witness to give their testimony.
- All witnesses are forbidden from speaking to anyone about what is occurring in the trial until after they have testified at trial and subsequently excused from any further testimony.
- It is the responsibility of the attorney, or if not represented, the party, to provide the virtual link to the proceedings in advance of the hearing.
Any subpoena issued for the appearance of a witness at a virtual trial shall direct the witness to contact the attorney, or party if not represented, a minimum of seven (7) days in advance of the trial and provide (1) their telephone number and email address they can be reached on the day(s) of trial; and (2) whether they have the ability to appear for a virtual trial, including access to a computer, camera, and/or audio. If the witness cannot access this equipment then it will be the responsibility of the person issuing the subpoena to determine if they are a material witness and, if so, it is the responsibility of the person issuing the subpoena to make arrangements for the witness to appear at a location having sufficient video conference or audio conference capabilities (if approved by the Court).
- No Recording. Video and audio taping of the live feed is strictly prohibited. The parties are to instruct the witnesses and family/friends of this prohibition.
- Zoom Trial Etiquette
- Background. Either use an appropriate virtual background or be situated in a location with an appropriate background. Please avoid backgrounds/virtual backgrounds that are distracting. Also avoid backlighting, such as being in front of a window.
- Recording of the Trial. Recording of the trial is prohibited. An official recording will be retained by and available through Superior Court Administration.
- Minimize Distractions. If indoors, be in a place that is quiet and without distractions. Remain seated. Do not wander around. Do not go or stay outside. Be mindful of what is happening around you as well.
- Dress and Demeanor. Please dress and act in a way that is appropriate for court proceedings. Do not eat, smoke, chew gum, or drink anything other than water.
- Communication Tips. Speak clearly, and at a slightly slower pace than you would normally speak. Consider the use of a headset or earbuds if noise or hearing is a concern. Allow for pauses between people speaking as there may be a delay in the sound. Objections. To object, the party shall gain the attention of the judicial officer through verbal (“objection”) or visual means (hold up a sheet of paper containing the word “objection”) and nothing more. The person speaking at the time of the objection must stop and wait for direction from the Court.
- Limiting Feedback. If more than one device (computer, phone or tablet) is used in the same room, feedback can be a problem. Frequently this can be fixed by having the microphone and speaker of only one device active at a time. Headsets/earbuds can also solve this problem.
- Identification. Please identify yourself in Zoom with your actual name and role, rather than a “virtual” name. Click on “manage participants” and then, in the column on the far right, find you name and click on “more” and “rename.”
- Interpreters. In a civil or family law case, the party requiring an interpreter to appear for trial shall be responsible to arrange for the interpreter’s participation in the trial in accord with local rule 11.
- Use of Video. Parties and witnesses with video capability should have the video on, unless you have permission of the Court to proceed without video.
Updated: June 11, 2020