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Stewart Introduces Legislation to Halt Trial by Zoom Rule

May 11, 2022
Brian Stewart News

COLUMBUS – Representative Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) recently introduced legislation to eliminate the prospect of “trials by zoom,” which would be allowed under a new proposed rule from the Ohio Supreme Court.

“Trials should be conducted in person, where the jury can observe the litigants, the attorneys, and the witnesses, weighing credibility and the evidence directly and not simply through a computer monitor,” explained Stewart. “The practical difficulties for a judge to effectively monitor and observe upwards of a dozen court participants over a computer monitor are also significant, so when a jury is involved, trial proceedings should continue to occur in person, in the courtroom, as they have for the entire history of our state.”

The Ohio Supreme Court, under the Ohio Constitution, holds the power to adopt rules governing Ohio’s court system, including the rules of Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, and Evidence. However, the Ohio General Assembly is also empowered under the Ohio Constitution to invalidate these proposed rules by a concurrent resolution adopted by July 1, 2022. 

Under the new proposed Civil Rule 39(c), a judge could order a video conferencing trial (“trial by Zoom”) at the request of a single party to the case, and grant that request “in whole or in part” against the opposing party’s wishes. The judge could order that witnesses, attorneys, or even the parties themselves, appear solely by Zoom. If the parties agree, the judge could even order that the jurors participate separately, outside the courtroom, by Zoom only.

“Expanding the use of video conferencing technology to include civil jury trials is a solution in search of a problem that would be detrimental to our justice system. Invalidating this proposed rule is good policy, and I am grateful to my colleagues who have co-sponsored this bipartisan effort,” said Stewart.