GoldenbergLaw- Providing the Gold Standard of Advocacy

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift the landscape of litigation. As more hearings and trials are being conducted virtually, the likelihood of virtual judicial proceedings even after the pandemic has increased. 

As the landscape of litigation continues to evolve, you need a law firm that understands the changing nature of the litigation landscape due to pandemic and one who will fight for you! GoldenbergLaw vigorously advocates for clients nationwide and has been successful despite the adversity brought on by a global pandemic. 

GoldenbergLaw has also had the honor of being appointed to multiple leadership opportunities on Plaintiffs’ Steering Committees and Plaintiff’s Executive Committees in litigations across the country due to our team’s efficiency, effectiveness, experience, and expertise. The leadership appointments involve reviewing millions of documents, taking hundreds of depositions, fighting motions in courtrooms across the United States, and preparing for bellwether trials in multiple MDL litigations. We see every challenge as an opportunity to provide the Gold standard of advocacy our clients deserve. 

GoldenbergLaw Attorneys’ Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) Appointments

Building off of our experience and successes, the attorneys at GoldenbergLaw are now routinely selected for leadership appointments by Federal Judges and attorneys on a variety of national product liability litigations

Senior Partner Stuart Goldenberg’s PSC Appointments: 

  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee: In re Benicar (Olmesartan) Products Liability Litigation; currently serving on discovery committee.
  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee: In re Bard IVC Filters Products Liability Litigation; currently serving on discovery, sales, and marketing committees.
  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee: In re Wright Profemur Hip Implant Products Liability Litigation

Partner Marlene Goldenberg’s PSC Appointments: 

  • Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee (PSC) In Re: Valsartan Products Liability Litigation
  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) In Re: Zantac (Ranitidine) Products Liability Litigation
  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) In Re: Abilify Products Liability Litigation

Partner Noah Lauricella’s PSC Appointments:

  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) In re: Bair Hugger Forced Air Warming Products Liability Litigation
  • Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) In re: Zimmer M/L Taper Hip Prosthesis or M/L Taper Hip Prosthesis With Kinectiv Technology and Versys Femoral Head Products Liability Litigation

To learn more about what the District of Minnesota’s Chief Judge John Tunheim thinks about the future of virtual trials, click here.

To learn what other jurisdictions throughout the U.S. are thinking about the future of virtual proceedings after the pandemic, click here

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help

Our team at GoldenbergLaw has over 35 years of experience providing the Gold standard of advocacy to our clients. In the constantly evolving legal landscape due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you need a law firm who has the knowledge, experience, and compassion to help you navigate the process. Contact GoldenbergLaw today for a free consultation and leave the sleepless nights to us!

The Future of Virtual Trials Due to COVID-19

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act in March 2020 to allow federal courts to conduct most routine court proceedings by telephone and video hookups. Since then, several courts have conducted virtual bench trials which do not require a jury and some courts have even held virtual civil jury trials.  

The Western District of Washington, the Middle District of Florida, and the District of Minnesota have already conducted virtual civil jury trials with jurors serving from their homes. The federal trial courts in Rhode Island and Kansas are currently planning their first civil jury trials. 

Under the CARES Act, the judiciary will end most electronic proceedings after the pandemic emergency is declared to be over. However, judges in many jurisdictions are advocating for continuing virtual court procedures even after the pandemic. 

Western District of Washington

The Western District of Washington started virtual civil jury trials in September 2020, which piloted the Zoom civil jury trial for many other states.

Of the four virtual trials that have already occurred, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman has presided over two of them. Regarding the virtual jury trial experience, Judge Pechman said: “Video jury trials are a tool that can be used, and it’s a tool we need to use unless we are going to be backed up forever and ever. It has worked better than my initial expectations, all the way around. The jurors have been very, very diligent. They’ve cleared themselves of distractions and worked hard to pay attention.” 

Judge Pechman initially worried that the required computer equipment might skew the jury pool by reducing the number of elderly and low-income jurors. However, the court addressed this by training jurors who needed computer skills and lending computers to those who did not have equipment.

Judge Pechman also debriefed each juror about their experience: “We asked if you feel like you can pay attention while you’re sitting in your own home. The jurors overwhelmingly said yes. I know the lawyers would say this guy was sitting in his laundry room, and this lady was sitting on her bed, but the point is, we invaded their house, and they found the best space they could in order to pay attention.” 

Judge Pechman noted other benefits such as reduced costs and decreased travel time for jurors, attorneys, and witnesses.

After her experiences, Judge Pechman now advocates for continuing virtual civil trials even after the pandemic:  “I have no backlog. Every single case I had set in 2020 got tried in 2020. I tell my fellow judges this may be the only way the wheels of justice will still turn.”

On February 5, 2021, the Western District of Washington hosted a how-to seminar for virtual trials which attracted more than 900 participants from more than 60 district courts.

Middle District of Florida

Judge Mary Scriven of the Middle District of Florida also highly recommends extending virtual court procedures beyond the pandemic after her experience presiding over a five-day virtual civil trial in late January 2021: “It flowed seamlessly from jury selection through deliberations. I would do it again in a heartbeat, and I highly recommend the virtual trial procedure to other judges in the District facing a backlog of civil cases due to the pandemic.”

She noted that the jurors especially appreciated “the ability to see the exhibits and see and hear the witnesses clearly because everything was magnified on the screen.”

District of Rhode Island

The suspended jury trials and in-person proceedings during the pandemic will create a backlog for the courts once they do reopen. However, judges recognize that virtual civil trials present an opportunity to address the backlog now. 

The District of Rhode Island Chief Judge John McConnell addressed the backlog of cases: “When we realized that once we are able to conduct trials again, we’re going to have to prioritize criminal trials and we aren’t likely this year to get to in-person civil jury trials, we didn’t think it was appropriate not to offer litigants their Seventh Amendment right for that long.”

In response, the federal trial court in Rhode Island is currently preparing for its first virtual civil jury trial. The Rhode Island district court almost held its first virtual civil jury trial recently, but the parties settled the day before trial.

District of Massachusetts

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani from the District of Massachusetts has presided over two virtual trials. Judge Talwani observed benefits such as jurors being able to see the witnesses’ full faces on a screen 18 inches away instead of an obstructed angle from a witness box. Furthermore, Judge Talwani noted the increased convenience for all parties: “For these parties, the difference of not having to travel here was enormous. To be able to do all of that without everyone having to spend the travel time worked very well. If people are cost conscious, it would make a huge difference.”

Harris County Civil Court in Texas

Judge Tanya Garrison of the Harris County Civil Court in Texas also discussed the benefits of virtual court and expressed that she observed.  She specifically commented on the increased efficiency of hearings, monetary and time savings for clients, decreased hassle and frustration, ease of accommodating witnesses, virtual depositions, and a positive impact on settlement hearings for minors since parents do not need to take time off work.

District of Minnesota

The District of Minnesota’s Chief Judge John Tunheim explained that Minnesota will continue holding Zoom trials for civil court cases after the pandemic due to the plethora of benefits including decreased costs, increased convenience, a decrease in the criminal case backlog, allowing trials to proceed despite Minnesota’s varying weather conditions, and ensuring that the  jury pools reflect a diverse cross-section of the community. To learn more about Minnesota judicial system’s opinion of virtual trials, please read “Judicial Changes in Minnesota Due to COVID-19”

How GoldenbergLaw Can Help

Our team at GoldenbergLaw has been helping clients achieve the Gold standard of advocacy for more than 30 years. COVID-19 has shifted the landscape of litigation and you need a law firm that understands and responds to these changes. We help clients across the country, and we would be honored to speak with you! Contact GoldenbergLaw today for a free consultation!

 

Judicial Changes in Minnesota Due to COVID-19

As America watches the Minnesota criminal trial of Derek Chauvin, we have all noticed changes in the courtroom due to the COVID-19 pandemic–such as the large amount of plexiglass. In a recent Law360 interview, the District of Minnesota’s Chief Judge John Tunheim discussed the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the judicial process and how those changes may continue beyond the pandemic. 

Chief Judge Tunheim explained during the interview that the District of Minnesota will continue holding Zoom trials for civil court cases even after the pandemic restrictions are lifted due to the multitude of benefits the court has seen. Those benefits include relieving the backlog of criminal trials, allowing trials to proceed despite the unpredictable Minnesota weather, and ensuring that jury pools more accurately reflect a diverse cross-section of the community. 

Minnesota’s Virtual Civil Courts

Chief Judge Tunheim explained that in the District of Minnesota jury trials and in-person hearings will resume on May 3, 2021 after jurors return on May 1. However, Chief Judge Tunheim said that he, along with many other judges, will still do as many hearings and bench trials as possible via Zoom — partly in order to decrease the amount of people coming to the courthouse. 

However, Chief Judge Tunheim noted that Minnesota will likely not get to its plethora of civil cases right away due to the substantial backlog of criminal trials. Currently, only two courtrooms are being used for in-person court proceedings–one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. This obviously makes it difficult to expedite the judicial process. Chief Judge Tunheim hopes to clear out the backlog of criminal trials by using Zoom for civil trials. 

The master trial calendar from May 3 until the end of December 2021 states that there will only be two cases tried at a time and priority will be given to criminal cases since criminal cases cannot be tried virtually. However, Chief Judge Tunheim is hopeful that later in the summer access to the courts will have expanded, allowing more courtrooms to open. This is largely dependent on how comfortable jurors feel about sitting next to each other. 

For all civil trials, the court is offering the option for a virtual civil jury using Zoom. It is only an option–not an obligation. However, judges are strongly encouraging lawyers to agree to a virtual jury trial.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Civil Trials

Chief Judge Tunheim emphasized the convenience and decreased costs of virtual trials. For instance, attorneys and witnesses do not have to fly across the country and pay for transportation and lodging to participate in the trial. This can result in trials occurring faster. However, there is extra work involved in virtual trials such as making sure that all jurors have access to the necessary technology, making sure that they have a stable Internet connection, making sure that they are comfortable using the technology, and having a courtroom deputy serve as a jury minder during the trial to assist the virtual civil jury. 

It is important to note that authority has not been given to conduct criminal trials virtually, and so virtual trials only apply to civil cases. Currently, there is a criminal case backlog of 20 to 25 criminal cases pending in the District of Minnesota and 30% of criminal defendants have not authorized videoconferencing for their hearings (pretrial hearings, change of pleas and sentencing hearings). An estimated half of those 20 to 25 cases will go to trial. Chief Judge Tunheim explained that there is a larger number of civil cases in the backlog because a firm trial date is a very important part of the settlement process, and it is currently unclear when most trials will occur.

Virtual Civil Trials After the Pandemic?

Chief Judge Tunheim cited the non-pandemic related benefits of virtual civil trials such as being able to try cases during the unpredictable Minnesota winters, less expensive lodging and transportation costs for jurors, lawyers, and witnesses, a better cross-section of the community being represented in jury pools, and allowing a broader public audience to see the judicial system in action. 

Zoom trials allow juries to encompass a broader portion of the community because the virtual alternative eliminates a lot of the reasons jurors may have been unable to participate before such as having children at home, running a small business, having farm duties, living multiple hours away, or using a wheelchair. 

Chief Judge Tunheim emphasized that the state of Minnesota has purchased technology equipment to make sure that all jurors have access to the necessary technology, know how to use it, and have a stable Internet connection.

GoldenbergLaw

Our team at GoldenbergLaw has been helping clients achieve the Gold standard of advocacy for more than 30 years. Contact GoldenbergLaw today and leave the sleepless nights to us!