Attorneys won’t be in the Michigan Supreme Court chambers this week as they argue cases. Instead, the state’s highest court will hear oral arguments online due to the COVID-19 crisis.
This is the first time the state’s highest court will use the internet to hear appeals and question attorneys. All sides have to agree for cases to be argued online, and litigants will still have to file written briefs with the court.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack says the litigants will connect via Zoom.
“A lot of our trial courts have been doing remote hearings using that same platform, and we’re going to be livestreaming those arguments using YouTube so the public can still see what we’re up to,” she says.
McCormack says the judicial branch is not immune to changes forced by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Assuming the lawyers and the litigants were comfortable with it, it makes a lot of sense,” she says. “Who knows when we’re going to be able to do hearings in the courtroom again? So, obviously, you don’t want folks to have to wait months and months and months to have their cases heard.”
McCormack says this will help ensure the justice system continues to work through the crisis, but cautions this will be a learning experience.
“Technology isn’t the answer to everything that ails the legal system, like it’s not the answer to everything that ails any other system,” she says.
The first two cases will be heard on Wednesday and two more will be heard next week. This week’s cases deal with foreclosure and a commercial insurance claim.
Many trial courts already allow online appearances. McCormack says the crisis will change the judiciary just as it’s touched virtually every other aspect of modern life.