The COVID-19 pandemic has led to countless changes in our day-to-day lives as we all adjust to social distancing guidelines. If you’ve been on Earth for the past year, this is not news. Luckily, the existence of video-chatting services like Zoom means we can all stay connected — and even see faces without masks! — which means certain social services can still proceed.

However, because these video calls happen usually in one’s home, it is all too easy to get a bit too casual. Not having to wear pants to work has taken a toll on us all, but there are just some things meant to be taken seriously. Like court, for example.

Surgery and cats and pools – oh my!

Right now, courts are only in session for more minor offenses, like traffic violations. The heavier stuff is postponed until there can be a fair and full trial in person. Knowing this seems to have certain folks believing their virtual court dates are not, in fact, “as serious” as in-person court. This is widely known as “incorrect.”

As a horrifying example, only a couple weeks ago a plastic surgeon joined his Zoom court hearing… while actively operating on a patient. Why? Why?

Put the Scalpel Down. You’re in Court, for Crying Out Loud

The rightfully-befuddled judge did end up rescheduling that hearing, but not before our surgeon of the year tried — twice! — to convince him it was okay to proceed. I don’t know about you, but if I woke up after surgery and found out my doctor settled his parking ticket with a scalpel in my body, I’d be pretty upset.

While this is the most shocking example, it certainly isn’t the only one. There are reports of people going to virtual court shirtless, from bed, or even from a swimming pool. Sometimes, it isn’t even a matter of choice or fault — technology bests us all at some point. You may have heard of the attorney who couldn’t figure out how to remove a filter of a cat from his face, leading to him reassuring the judge that he was not, in fact, a cat.

An important distinction, of course, as everyone knows cats love being on camera.

The point is that court is court is court. It does not matter if it’s virtual or in person, for a parking dispute or a burglary. If you are appearing in court, there is an etiquette you’re meant to follow — and none of it allows for any of the above.

Yes, it matters if you behave like you’re in a “real” courtroom

Listen. This pandemic has been rough for everyone in some form or another. We’re worn down, tired, and all-around done. It’s fair. But just because it’s fair doesn’t mean you’re allowed to show it in every situation.

Court etiquette is in place as both a show of respect for the law and as a way to keep order and professionalism. While it’s not illegal to wear nothing but swim shorts, it will instantly hurt your case to do so because it tells the judge you don’t care, you don’t have respect, and you’re not taking it seriously. And if you’re not taking your own case seriously, why should they?

It is simply not worth the risk. It is especially not worth the risk if your case could otherwise be solid and easily-won by your attorneys.

Let’s take our plastic surgeon for another example. Although the exact nature of the case isn’t specified, we know it was something to do with a traffic violation. This incident took place in California, but let’s pretend it happened in Maryland. Depending on the severity of the offense, Dr. Bad-Idea could be facing a variety of distinctly un-fun penalties if he is found guilty, from hefty fines and court fees to possibly losing driving privileges altogether. In between those two extremes, there’s the chance of points on his driving record and higher insurance costs, and beyond that — if anyone was injured — he could even face jail time.

It may seem silly that one’s entire case could be jeopardized due to an etiquette breach, but is it silly enough to chance it? Even if your attorney manages to snag you the case after all, the judge has still seen you careless — or shirtless, or swimming, etc. That’s the image they will have of you, and that is something they will remember.

Besides, the etiquette in question is just not that difficult. Dress like it’s a job interview, act and speak respectfully, don’t bring young children into the metaphoric and literal courtroom. And probably do not operate during your hearing, either. The good news is this is just one of the many things your attorney can assist you with. Whether it’s over Zoom or in a post-pandemic future in a decade from now, attorneys are here to help you. Yes, with winning your case, but also with answering any and all questions you may have. How will they defend you? What should you wear? Are you a cat?

The Annapolis and Ellicott City-based traffic offense attorneys at Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law can answer all these questions and help you in every way we can, with compassionate, experienced care. It’s not about judging your personal decisions, after all; it’s about helping you help yourself while we fight for your justice together. We can be right where you need us — Zoom or not. For more information, call us at 410-271-1892 or fill out our online contact form.

And remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew…but not while operating on a person.