You Can Now Have a Trial by Skype

We live in a world where it seems like every day a new technology emerges that surpasses all prior technologies by leaps and bounds. Now, in an instant, a person can speak face to face with someone across the country, or even the world, through the use of videoconferencing technologies such as FaceTime and Skype. With technology moving at such a fast pace, sometimes the law can seem slow to catch up. However, in Illinois, there are laws in place that allow litigants to utilize certain technologies out of necessity, or even out of convenience.

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 185 allows litigants to conduct their court appearance over the telephone rather than appear in person. Rule 185 states that a Court may, at the party’s request, allow a party to argue a motion or have a conference with the court over the telephone. This rule was adopted in 1992 in order to make motion practice and conferencing with the Court more convenient and cost effective for litigants and their attorneys. In particular, Anderson & Boback most often uses this rule to request the Court to allow clients who are service members in the military to testify over the telephone while they are on duty. The benefits of testifying over the telephone are that telephones are readily accessible and cost effective for the parties and the Court. Testifying over the telephone may also save a party from incurring travel costs if the party lives out of the State of Illinois. However, there are some disadvantages to using the telephone to testify.

For instance, I am currently working on a divorce case where our office represents the wife. The wife happens to live in Texas and cannot travel to Illinois for her trial. I suggested we allow the wife to testify over the telephone pursuant to Rule 185. However, the opposing party had some concerns in allowing my client to testify over the phone. Whenever a party testifies in Court, the Judge will not only listen to what the party is saying, but will also look to the party’s facial expressions and body language to determine the party’s credibility.  Furthermore, if a party testifies over the telephone, there is no way to be certain that the party is not improperly looking to documents during their testimony that they should not be looking at, having someone present to help them, or otherwise acting improperly. The opposing party in this case was simply concerned that, if our client were to testify over the telephone, the Court would not be able to properly determine her credibility.

In order to address the above concerns, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 241 was adopted in 2011. Rule 241 allows a party to use videoconferencing technologies to testify in Court. Unlike testifying over the telephone, testifying via videoconferencing simply does not have the same concerns. If a party is using videoconferencing to testify, not only can the Judge see the party’s facial expressions and other body language to determine credibility, but the Judge may also see if the party is improperly looking at documents or otherwise acting improperly. In my case, in order to address the opposing party’s concerns, the Court is allowing my client to testify at her trial using videoconferencing since she is unable to travel to Illinois. At Anderson & Boback we pride ourselves on utilizing the latest technologies to make your case more efficient. If you are a service member on duty or simply live out of state but have a family law case pending in the Chicagoland area, please feel free to set up a consultation with our office.

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