The Pros and Cons of a Virtual Testimony from the Perspective of an Expert Witness

Virtual Courtroom Experience and Virtual Testimony

Recently, I blogged about my first experience testifying before the court virtually. Don’t forget to check it out! Everything seemed to “go off without a hitch,” but afterward, I took some time on the drive home to consider the advantages and disadvantages of court via the internet.

Here’s a list of a few pros and cons that I discovered during my virtual courtroom experience:

Benefits of a Virtual Courtroom Testimony

With the Coronavirus having a massive effect on our community, it’s nice to have a safe alternative to our normal open courtroom hearing. Although it will never be the same as meeting in the courtroom, my experience has made me realize that there are plenty of benefits of virtual courtroom meetings.

Virtual Courtrooms Offer Convenience and Accessibility

An obvious benefit of “tele-testimony” is convenience and accessibility. Once the court system becomes fully engaged with online meetings, efficiency will become another obvious benefit. I foresee court dockets with dedicated time slots for trials separate from procedural rulings for other cases, etc.

The participants show up from their virtual locations (without masks) at a set time. The trial begins—what a concept – no travel time, no unnecessary wait time, and associated expenses. Realistically, there will be delays, re-calendaring, and unforeseen problems, but rescheduling virtually would be less of a burden on all parties.

Virtual Courtroom Testimonies are Cost Saving

With convenience comes cost savings. As an expert, I am paid for my time. Whether it is spent waiting in the hall or driving to court, my client is billed accordingly. When travel and waiting time is taken out of the equation, the client saves a great deal of money in retainer fees.

Yes, I make less, but my time can be used in other cases requiring my attention.

The Cons of a Virtual Courtroom Testimony

Any virtual event will never be the same as an in-person event. Although there are some great benefits of having virtual courtroom testimony, there are also a few notable cons that are worth mentioning.

Virtual Courtrooms Take Away the Personal Experience

Having one’s “day in court” is a chance for people to civilly confront the opposition, face-to-face, and resolve a dispute. For most, the mere act of going to court elevates the event from mundane to extraordinary. The personal experience evokes a level of respect for the proceedings that cannot be replicated by viewing it on a monitor. What is supposed to be a public forum is now limited to only the litigants, counsel, and one testifying witness at a time.

Virtual Courtrooms Make It Harder to Read the Room

My testimony and how I present it is far more than just answering a battery of pre-determined questions. While I am on the stand, I am constantly watching the judge’s body language, opposing counsel, and the parties involved. For instance, by watching the judge or jury, I sense whether my testimony has been understood or if I am making an impression.

I will watch my client/attorney’s body language to ascertain whether I need to elaborate on an answer or make it brief. I pay attention to the subtle body language of opposing counsel. Often, I can tell which of my answers will be challenged in cross-examination by how he or she reacts. Few, if any, of these observations are possible in virtual court.

What Do I Prefer?

You may have figured out by now that I am a believer in holding civil trials in person (with the occasional video or telephonic testimony when necessary). The public is best served in an environment responsive to the human need to communicate using all our senses, including our “sixth sense.”

Would you like to learn more about the pros and cons of a virtual testimony? Contact Forensic Document Examiner Linda Mitchell at 888-760-0339 today!