This is the last in a three part series of posts about altenative ways to make court appearances.
Objections to Virtual Appearances
“The accused should have to appear in court, at least once.”
For all of the reasons set out in the introduction to this memo, the trend in the law and the procedure is toward virtual appearances. Unnecessary physical appearances by accused persons in remand court have no real salutary effects.
“The plea must be entered by someone who is physically present.”
A guilty plea may be made only if the accused is present, unless the court orders otherwise: section 650.01(3)(c). However, a not guilty plea may be entered by counsel in the absence of the accused.
“How do we know who we are talking to?”
Besides the fact that a teleconference call was placed to a number associated with the office of counsel for the accused, and most counsel are known to the Court, there is no way to rule out an impostor. By the same token, there is no way to stop someone from pretending to be a member of the bar and physically appearing as such in Court.
“What about the unrepresented accused person?”
If the process used to compel appearances was made returnable at 2:00 pm, the relatively few unrepresented accused could appear in court at that time. The morning hours could be used for virtual appearances by counsel.
“How is access to the proceedings of the Court preserved for the media and members of the general public?”
Since the vast majority of virtual appearances would deal with administrative matters, the public interest in access to the Court’s proceedings will be satisfied by access to the Record of Proceedings and other documents in the Court file at the Registry.
Where the Court or one of the parties sees a public interest in having the public physically present during an appearance, the Court can direct that that appearance be conducted in the Court room in the current manner.
The people in the Criminal Justice system – Judges, lawyers and court staff – are dedicated to their professions and concerned about the quality of the work they perform for the public or their individual clients. The current system for administrative and pre-trial appearances, because it is based on the requirement of physical appearances, takes away the time they need to use their professional skills, and forces them to spend that time on tasks which add little value to the end-product, and which could be performed far more efficiently if they were allowed to adopt communications equipment that is commonplace in the 21st century.