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CO Chief Justice Imposes Statewide Rules on Virtual Hearings

As Colorado courts emerged from a pandemic emergency that drove court proceedings onto computer screens, some courts were quick to pull the plug while others continued to allow some proceedings to occur remotely. Now the state's chief justice has ended the case-by-case improvisation with a new policy that allows some hearings to remain on camera while mandating that trials be held in person, Courthouse News reports. Through two new directives, Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright aims to create blanket policies for the state’s patchwork of trial courts. “The adoption of this policy solidifies a dramatic shift in the manner in which courts have conducted business for hundreds of years by authorizing the use of virtual proceedings which benefit the majority of those involved in court proceedings,” Boatright explained.

Supporters of the move say remote proceedings save parties time otherwise spent traveling as well as the need to take off a full day of work. Crime victims can also participate remotely without the stress of seeing the defendant in person. An analysis last December from the Colorado Access to Justice Commission found remote access helped people in rural areas of the state obtain legal representation. In a 2021 analysis, the Pew Research Center found offering individuals the ability to participate in court remotely generally led to an increase in participation. Opponents, however, worry about privacy issues, maintaining sequestration orders and the demise of formal court decorum. "This chief justice directive aims both to strike the proper balance between these competing interests and to create transparency for the courts’ continuing use of virtual proceedings," the directive states. In addition to trials, in-person proceedings are required for criminal preliminary hearings and arraignment. Proceedings for temporary risk protection orders and contempt are also presumed to be held in person, among other hearing types.


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