NDWV GUIDELINES FOR VIRTUAL CONTESTED EVIDENTIARY HEARINGS
The following protocols will be followed for evidentiary hearings conducted by remote means before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of West Virginia:
1. Video Conferencing Solutions. The court will be utilizing Zoom for Government (“Zoom”) to conduct the hearings. Participants will be connected with the courtroom using Zoom but will not be physically present in the courtroom.
2. Required Equipment: To appear by video, each attorney and witness must have access to a computer, tablet, phone, or other device equipped with (a) a camera, (b) an internet connection sufficient to support the applicable video platform, and (c) a microphone.
3. Required Appearance By Video: Any lawyer wishing to make an argument before the court or be heard on the merits of a case and their witnesses must appear by video conference.
4. Pre-hearing Testing. All counsel and witnesses shall conduct a pre-hearing test of Zoom using the same equipment that they will be using during the hearing unless they have previously appeared for a virtual hearing before this Court without experiencing any technical difficulties. Counsel should contact the Courtroom Deputy by emailing Lisa_McNeil@wvnb.uscourts.gov to schedule a pre-hearing test at least three (3) business days prior to the hearing.
Please note, technical settings may have changed since your last appearance, either on your end or the court’s. Also, Zoom frequently updates their software. Check for and install any software updates shortly before your appearance.
5. Telephonic Attendance at the Hearing by Other Attorneys, Parties-in-Interest and the Public. All other attorneys, parties in interest, or members of the public who wish to monitor the proceedings shall send an email to Lisa_McNeil@wvnb.uscourts.gov via electronic mail no later than three (3) business days prior to the hearing.
6. Connecting to Judge Bissett’s Meeting Room via Zoom for Government – by Video: There are two different ways to access Judge Bissett’s Meeting Room via Zoom for Government: (A) mobile app or (B) computer. Please review each method before determining which works best for you.
|(A) MOBILE APP||(B) COMPUTER BROWSER|
1. Download the free “ZOOM Cloud Meetings” app from your app store and open the app.
2. Click on the button that says, “Join a Meeting”.
3. Enter the Meeting # 161 666 5385 and change the name of your device to your full name so that it will display correctly on the participants list, then click the “Join” button.
4. Enter the meeting passcode: 5466
5. The “Video Preview” screen will allow you an opportunity to make sure your camera and screen are appropriately positioned. Allow the app to have access to your camera when prompted by clicking the “Join with Video” button.
6. To hear others please join audio by clicking “Call using Internet Audio” button
7. The next page will take you to the virtual “Waiting Room.” You will be invited by Judge Bissett to join the hearing when the docket starts. Using the mobile app to connect to the hearing does require connection to the Internet or mobile data plan. Parties should account for limits on any internet or data plan using the Zoom platform.
|1. Click on the link in hearing notice or enter the meeting link in your browser’s address bar: https://www.zoomgov.com/j/1616665385?pwd=dHVFdEJ2SWdoL3poQkQwdHNqN2JCdz09Sect
2. Click the “Launch Meeting” button.
3. You can either install the Zoom Client by clicking the “Download Now” link or “Join from Your Browser” link if you don’t want to install the Zoom Client.
4. At the Join Meeting page, put in your name, select the captcha box and click the “Join” button.
5. The next page will take you to the virtual “Waiting Room” Click the “Join with Computer Audio” button to use the microphone on your device. You will be invited by Judge Bissett to join the hearing when the docket starts.
7. Submission of Exhibits to the Court: Parties submitting exhibits related to the hearing shall send all exhibits to firstname.lastname@example.org via electronic mail in .pdf format one (1) week prior to the hearing, unless instructed otherwise by separate order, and shall contemporaneously serve the exhibits by electronic mail on opposing counsel and witnesses, as appropriate. Filing of any exhibit shall not require the exhibit to be offered into evidence at the hearing, nor shall any proposed exhibit be considered as evidence unless offered and admitted at the hearing. Any other exhibit or demonstrative to be used for any purpose, including for rebuttal or impeachment, should be submitted no later than two (2) business days prior to the hearing, via email by the offering party to the court (at email@example.com) and opposing counsel. Parties submitting exhibits are excused from filing exhibits on the court docket. Parties submitting exhibits need only email the exhibits to the other parties to this Order and the court.
8. Remote Witness Testimony: In accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 43(a) (made applicable by Fed.R.Bank.P. 9017) and Fed.R. Evid.611, for good cause and in compelling circumstances a witness may be permitted to testify by contemporaneous transmission from a location other than the courtroom. Based on the foregoing, any witness called to testify or subject to cross-examination shall be permitted to testify by contemporaneous transmission from a different location (“Remote Witness”). If the Remote Witness or counsel seek to communicate with one another, either shall openly request a recess for such purpose. If such request is granted by the court, the Remote Witness and counsel may privately confer in a “Breakout Room” that is part of the Zoom platform or by telephone, whichever is authorized by the court.
9. Requirements for Allowance of Remote Testimony; Additional Information.
As additional safeguards for the allowance of a Remote Witness, the Party sponsoring said Remote Witness shall file with the court, no later than three (3) business days prior to the scheduled hearing, unless instructed otherwise by separate order, a document containing the following information:
- The name and title of the Remote Witness.
b. The matter on which the Remote Witness will provide testimony.
c. The location of the Remote Witness (city, state, country).
d. The place from which the Remote Witness will testify (e.g. home, office – no addresses are required).
e. Whether anyone will be in the room with the Remote Witness during the testimony, and if so, who (name, title, relationship to the Remote Witness), and for what purpose.
f. Whether the Remote Witness will have access to any documents other than exhibits that have been emailed to the court and the parties, and if so, what documents.
10. Swearing in of Remote Witnesses. All Remote Witnesses shall be sworn in over the video conferencing solution and such testimony will have the same effect and be binding upon the Remote Witness in the same manner as if such Remote Witness was sworn in by the Courtroom Deputy in person in open court. To the extent there is an error or malfunction with the video conference, the Remote Witness may be sworn in and testify via telephone.
11. Responsibility for Remote Witnesses. The party sponsoring the witness shall be responsible for ensuring that the Zoom link is supplied to the Remote Witness prior to the hearing. The party sponsoring a Remote Witness shall ensure that the Remote Witness has printed copies of all exhibits filed with the court by all counsel prior to the start of the hearing. In lieu of printed copies, a witness may have electronic copies that will be readily accessible and reviewable by the witness during testimony on a device separate from the device used to connect to the hearing.
12. Courtroom Formalities. Although conducted using videoconferencing technologies, the evidentiary hearing constitutes a court proceeding. No person shall record—from any location or by any means—the audio or video of the hearing. The audio recording created and maintained by the court shall constitute the official record of the hearing. Further, the formalities of a courtroom shall be observed. Counsel and Remote Witnesses shall dress appropriately, exercise civility, and otherwise conduct themselves in a manner consistent with an appearance in Federal Court.
13. Prehearing Procedures: The hearing notice will include the Zoom link; Meeting ID (10-digit access code) and a meeting password. All parties are instructed to access Judge Bissett’s Meeting Room 10 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to start. You will be staged in the virtual “Waiting Room”, until a court representative takes roll and checks you into the hearing. Before entering, make sure your video mode is in the “on” position, and your audio indicator shows your audio is unmuted.
Parties should remain seated when the Judge joins the meeting or when addressing the Court to provide the best video feed for the Court.
14. General Recommendations:
a. Mute your cellphones, any notifications and set their status to Do Not Disturb to avoid interruptions during the hearing.
b. Mute your microphone when not addressing the court to prevent background noise, which is distracting to participants and interferes with the record.
c. Close any unnecessary application on your computer or phone before the hearing begins.
d. Sit with the camera trained directly on your head and shoulders. Avoid backlighting – sitting with your back to (and your camera facing) a window can result in the backlight obscuring your face.
e. Speak toward your device. When you turn your head away to look at something while you are talking, the other parties and the judge may not be able to hear you.
f. Participate from a quiet room and be situated in such a manner as to be able to both view the video feed and be seen by the Court. Parties should not appear from a public space or a vehicle.
g. Parties should (i) wait until called upon to speak; (ii) announce their name for the record; (iii) make an effort to speak slowly, clearly, and concisely; and (iv) pause before speaking and avoid speaking over or interrupting other parties and the Court.
h. Advise the court promptly if a participant has a hearing impairment that may require additional tools for communication.
i. Make sure you have as strong a connection to the Internet as possible. If you are participating from a computer, consider whether you can use a “wired” connection to the internet router instead of a “wireless” connection.
j. Contact the courtroom deputy with any procedural questions or concerns prior to the hearing.
15. Technical Difficulties: The Court may convert the Zoom for Government platform to a telephone platform or reschedule the hearing if technical issues prevent the use of a video platform. Notice of any such change will be provided to counsel through email or other appropriate means, as necessary.