There is no better place to start than the unceremonious elimination of in-person state court motion calendar. It is rare that we are presented with such an elegant solution to such a pervasive problem.
Commentary by Etan Mark for The Daily Business Review | May 7, 2020
Well, it took a pandemic, but lawyers have finally figured out how to use Zoom. Now we need to use this newfound superpower for good, not evil.
And there is no better place to start than the unceremonious elimination of in-person state court motion calendar. It is rare that we are presented with such an elegant solution to such a pervasive problem. For those nonlitigators out there, motion calendar in state court goes something like this: Rule number 1—we do not talk about motion calendar. Rule number 2— each side has no more than two minutes and 30 seconds to argue. Some judges enforce this rule, some do not. Generally speaking and based solely on personal experience (but I would be very curious if anyone has actually figured this out), the average motion calendar argument tends to be between five and 10 minutes. Rule number 3—because the matter is only supposed to take five minutes, most motion-calendar hearings involve the more pedestrian aspects of our practice such as, motions for enlargements of time, smaller discovery disputes, or unopposed matters. Generally, this means that the outcome will not make or break a party’s position. Rule number 4—motion calendars are set for blocks of time, usually a few times a week, and typically cover anywhere from 10 to 30 separate hearings. If you couple this with rule number 5 —you never know whether you will be the first or last to go until you’re there— you can expect to sit more than two hours before your number is called.
As a practical matter, this means that clients are often billed for two to three hours for what should be a five-minute hearing.
Yet over the past few weeks, lawyers in my, and other firms around South Florida have participated in Zoom hearing after Zoom hearing and an incredible thing happened: it worked—efficiently. Our judges and court administrators have worked hard and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for launching this program fairly seamlessly. Sure, there was the occasional outburst from a dog or a child. Yes, some are struggling to find the mute button, and others are certain that the only way you can be heard is if your forehead is pressed against the camera. But we can do this, Florida. And more importantly, we should do this.