Most Clerk Magistrate’s Hearings in Massachusetts district courts are remote now, and it works fine, both practically, and most importantly, results are usually good for defendants.
It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has impacted nearly every part of American life, and the court system is no exception. Millions of people didn’t know what Zoom remote video conference calls were a year ago but now use them regularly for work and to connect with family.
The Massachusetts District Court system now uses Zoom for remote clerk magistrates hearings and other court dates with increasing regularity.
All courts are still technically open for extremely urgent and serious criminal matters, but the proceedings are anything but routine these days.
What is the difference between a remote hearing and a regular hearing?
It’s harder to get an informal read on what the police prosecutor or magistrate are looking for since you don’t get those private conversations or non-verbal cues. So it’s a little more straightforward and formal when talking to the judge and prosecutor remotely.
But generally, I have had good results at remote hearings, and it makes sense to get one if you can. You may not have a choice, and its likely better rather than waiting indefinitely for an in-person hearings.
You can fill out a from the court send you in the mail or via email. You should receive that option when you get your hearing court date after sending in your citation.
As your lawyer, I’ll be linked on the call too, obviously, so I’ll let you know how it’s going. No, they don’t reliably start on time. Sometimes you can dial in early and see the other proceedings in the court and sense your place in line. Sometimes you can’t, it just depends on the individual court’s setup.
Since we are in different places, I can’t just lean over and whisper to you. But we can text discreetly while in the remote hearing.
There is no evidence that the outcomes are worse, and they might be better. I’ve won all my remote cases, but it’s too small a number to be a representative sample.
I have won remote cases in Boston (BMC Central), Clinton, Dedham, and Taunton.
If we scan documents and hold them up to the screen, that is considered acceptable. We will have to email them to the clerk after the hearing so the court has a copy. For example, proof of payment of insurance claims.
It’s mostly just a matter of being prepared and knowing what the Clerk needs to dismiss the case. We bring all documentation of paid insurance claims, and the defendant’s good character, and how they will be adversely impacted by a criminal charge.
If the Magistrate is presented with evidence that any victims have been fairly compensated, and issuing a criminal charge would only create more harms and tie up the court’s time, then they will usually let the case drop.
Lawyers are always happy to listen to themselves talk, but a brilliant oration or an impassioned plea for justice is not way to win a clerk magistrate’s hearing. This is.
Questions about a remote clerk magistrate’s hearing? Text me directly or call me and I can help.