Prague, Czech Republic

COVID-19: A Catalyst of Remote Court Hearings

By Dr Jirí Novák, Brož & Sokol & Novák s.r.o.

A year ago, I noted that it would only take two more pandemics to switch the majority of court hearings to the online world. Today, it appears, it will only take a wave or two of the current pandemic.

Remote court hearings have occasionally occurred in many jurisdictions for a decade. But, with the current pandemic, governments have realised that to fight a disease either strict infection prevention rules need to be in place in the court rooms; participants need to attend court hearings remotely; or court hearings will have to be suspended.

Suspending the provision of justice can only be temporary. All lawyers know that it is not convenient to articulate a client’s case with a face mask on and to breathe adequately at the same time. Who wouldn’t like to join the hearing online using the video-conferencing tools available? Such hearings may bring comical consequences, especially if a filter presents a lawyer as a cat.1 But more seriously, remote court hearings bring consequences to principles such as the fair trial. As analysed by the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe2, how would a lawyer consult privately with his/her client during a remote trial? How would the public be able to attend the remote hearing? What about looking at physical evidence, and interviewing witnesses?

A solution is even harder to find in jurisdictions where the jury system is part of the criminal proceedings. In Scotland, where juries consist of fifteen people, not even social distancing provides for an easy solution. A solution has ultimately been found in placing jurors in remote jury centres – cinemas in fact – and video-linking them back to the courtroom.3

Pandemic or not, court hearings will become more and more a part of lawyers’ lives. And that is a scenario which will not change with when the COVID-19 pandemic ends. The economic reasoning behind remote court hearings was why remote court hearings originally started. The pandemic is only a catalyst of its development.

Be it in pandemic or in ordinary times, let’s not forget that justice will only be served if the proceedings are fair, in all aspects.

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1) youtu.be/TDNP-SWgn2w
2) For example, in the CCBE Guidance on the use of remote working tools by lawyers and remote court proceedings; available online at: www.ccbe.eu/fileadmin/speciality_distribution/public/documents/SURVEILLANCE/SVL_Position_papers/
EN_SVL_20201127_CCBE-Guidance-on-the-use-of-remote-working-tools-by-lawyers-and-remote-court-proceedings.pdf
3) Ibid.


Dr Jirí Novák

Dr Jirí Novák

GGI member firm
Brož & Sokol & Novák s.r.o.
Law Firm Services
Prague, Přerov, Czech Republic
T: +420 224 941 946
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W: akbsn.eu/en

Brož & Sokol & Novák is a Czech fullservice law firm. Their 32 lawyers provide expertise in all the significant fields of law. They are especially renowned in the fields of litigation and criminal law (Law Firm of the Year for nine consecutive years).

Dr Jirí Novák is an Equity and Managing Partner of Brož & Sokol & Novák. His areas of expertise include IT-related fields and human rights, and his practice usually involves civil litigation and criminal defence. Currently, he is the Chair of CCBE (Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe) IT Law Committee. Jirí’s aim within Brož & Sokol & Novák is to promote modern technologies and new ways of providing legal services. This includes the law firm’s online platform available at akbsn.online.


Published: Litigation & Dispute Resolution Newsletter, No. 14, Spring 2021 l Photo: Kennymax - stock.adobe.com

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