Download a PDF of these Best Practices
All Court of Appeal hearings scheduled on or after May 4, 2020 will proceed by videoconference, through Zoom Webinar. This guide should be read in supplement to the Notice to the Public Regarding Videoconference Proceedings in the Court of Appeal and the Court Proceedings by Videoconferences Form.
This guide outlines best practices to work with the technology, to adapt to the online courtroom, and addresses relevant security issues. As experience with the platform develops, you may have suggestions for updates to this document. Please email those to email@example.com.
Working with the Technology
- You will want a fast internet connection - learn about the speed of your internet connection on speedtest.net and make adjustments if needed.
- Be prepared for your internet to fail – plan for alternative solutions, such as using your phone’s hot spot, a mobile internet stick, or a friendly neighbour. Be prepared with call-in numbers for your internet provider in the event that you unexpectedly cannot get an internet source to work.
- You can strengthen your internet connectivity by setting up close to the WiFi router or directly plugging into the LAN.
- Be sure to download the Zoom App, available here.
- Use headphones with a microphone – those speaking with headphones come across clearer and louder than those simply speaking into their built-in microphone computer. In addition, wearing headphones prevent echoing of incoming audio for other hearing participants.
- Use two screens (if possible) – using two screens will allow you to toggle between the hearing, private chats, and relevant documents efficiently and simultaneously.
- Consider your lighting. At the time of day you are in court, will there be shadows on your face or are you back-lit from an adjacent window or light source? Fix that in advance.
- Enlisting advice from tech support – for those unfamiliar with Zoom, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with requests for help before your hearing to get comfortable with using the platform.
Adapting to the Environment
- Have everything you need within reach - select a space where you can have factums, appeal books, written material, water and your video-enabled computer in the same place. You don’t want something to fall off the table during the hearing.
- Rely on a compendium – to help participants locate the right document efficiently, have a compendium with paginated documents you anticipate relying on ready. The compendium is key to avoid searching for page references during the hearing and using your time for submissions efficiently.
- Standing - in a Zoom Courtroom, you are not required to stand when addressing the court, however as standing while addressing the court is habit, you can choose to set up your workspace and video to facilitate standing (i.e. using a standing desk) when addressing the court as well as when they are seated.
- Communication with the Court - when you are speaking, periodically pause and look to the judges to check to see if they need you to stop so that they can ask you a question. Remember to put yourself on mute after you finish speaking.
- Communicating with Your Co-counsel or Client – if your co-counsel and/or client is not in the same location as you (physically distant of course), set up an electronic method to connect such as MS Teams, WhatsApp, email, text or other forms of instant messaging have been used effectively by counsel.
- Communicating with Opposing Counsel – if you were in person, you might pass a note or talk to one another on a break. Agree in advance what method of communication you will use in communicating with opposing counsel such as MS Teams, WhatsApp, email, text, etc.
- Be mindful of facial expressions – your camera provides a much closer and direct view of your face than the judges and other counsel would have otherwise, so try to keep your expression reasonably neutral.
Security Issues & Solutions
You may have concerns about security issues. These have all be considered in selecting Zoom for this platform. For those unfamiliar with Zoom, some of the common concerns are addressed below. If you have further concerns, you can raise them in the Court Proceeding by Videoconference Form.
Zoom bombing occurs when hackers or other individuals access and disrupt a live meeting. However, all court hearings are held via Zoom webinar which has strong security controls.
What Zoom has done: Zoom has additional security measures which include a new process of changing security settings for the host and the participant.
Suggested practices for Participants: Don’t share your Zoom link with other individuals. You can view more helpful practices here.
Lack of end-to-end encryption
Data that users send is “encrypted,” in other words, secure, when it travels from one Zoom application to a Zoom server, or vice versa. Zoom does not “decrypt,” or in other words, read the data, before it reaches the Zoom app to which it is sent.
However, if you log onto Zoom without using the app – such as through a phone line, or legacy video conference systems – it is not automatically encrypted. This presents a theoretical vulnerability in the context of pre-trial conferences and the other court proceedings that are not intended to be public.
What Zoom has done: Zoom has created “Zoom connectors,” specialized clients that can be invited to the meeting upon the request of the meeting host to encrypt data sent to and from non-Zoom applications. Zoom has also stopped routing traffic through servers that are identified as vulnerable by experts at University of Toronto and elsewhere.
Suggested practices for Lawyers: Please ensure that you and your client are using the Zoom app to access the hearing.