What Are The Effects of The Proliferation of Video Hearings?

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law released a new paper and set of principles on remote court proceedings. The paper, The Impact of Video Proceedings on Fairness and Access to Justice in Court, collects and summarizes existing scholarship on the effects of video technology in judicial proceedings. While existing research is limited, the paper suggests reason for caution in expanding the use of video proceedings, as well as the need for further research on their potential effects.One study of criminal bail hearings found that defendants whose hearings were conducted over video had substantially higher bond amounts set than their in-person counterparts, with increases ranging from 54 to 90 percent, depending on the offense. There is a lot of valuable insight in this report. For example, 

  • A study of immigration courts found that detained individuals were more likely to be deported when their hearings occurred over video conference rather than in person.
  • Several studies of remote witness testimony by children found that the children were perceived as less accurate, believable, consistent, and confident when appearing over video. 
  • In three out of six surveyed immigration courts, judges identified instances where they had changed credibility assessments made during a video hearing after holding an in-person hearing. 

Research also suggests that the use of remote video proceedings can make attorney-client communications more difficult. For example, a 2010 survey by the National Center for State Courts found that 37 percent of courts using videoconferencing had no provisions to enable private communications between attorneys and their clients when they were in separate locations.  Remote proceedings can likewise make it harder for self-represented litigants to obtain representation and other forms of support by separating them from the physical courthouse. A study of immigration hearings found that detained immigrants who appeared in person were 35 percent more likely to obtain counsel than those who appeared remotely. 

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