Tips for Virtual Hearings

Tips for Preparing and Participating in a Virtual Court Proceeding in the DeKalb County Magistrate Court


Be Prepared
– Make sure the battery is charged in the device you plan to use. Have a charger readily available.
– Have sufficient Wi-Fi connectivity or enough data if using your mobile carrier.
– Keep the phone dial-in information close by in case you experience unforeseen technical difficulties.
– Remember this is an official court hearing. Please dress appropriately.
– Position the camera at eye level so others can see you clearly.
– Be in a quiet area with minimal background noise.
– Check the lighting. Light from a window behind you might blind the camera, making you look dark. Light above you in the center of a room might also cast shadows. Ideally, position a lamp, or sit facing a window, where light is directly on your face.

Using Zoom
– You should practice Zoom Meeting functions, and familiarize yourself with your internet, video, and audio capabilities prior to the hearing.
– In order to make your experience easier, you may create a free account and download the ZOOM application (www.zoom.us) onto your cell phone and/or computer. A ZOOM account is free. This is not a requirement but will improve your video experience. Your cellphone camera or the camera on your computer is required to participate in the hearing. You will also need internet connectivity to participate in the hearing.
– Zoom has resources that may also be helpful as you prepare. To prepare to join a court hearing, you may want to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-s76QHshQnY
– We also encourage participants to download the Zoom Application on either your computer or your mobile phone at least two days in advance. Please test the use of the Zoom before the hearing. You can test your equipment here: https://zoom.us/test

ZOOM on your phone
Install the Zoom app from your device’s app store. If you have a Zoom account, you can use it to join the remote hearing. Having an account is not required to appear at the court hearing. Make sure you keep the app up to date.
1. Open the app and click the link in the emailed hearing information provided by the court.
2. If that does not work, or if you received a paper hearing notice, click Join a Meeting.
3.Then enter the Meeting ID provided by the court.
4. Enter your first and last name. If representing a party, include your role, for example, Joan Smith, attorney for defendant.
5. Click Join and the hearing will launch.
6. If prompted, enter the Meeting Password, which is available in the hearing information from the court.
7. Click Join Meeting and your hearing will begin.

For further assistance see:
For an iPhone: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362993-Getting-Started-with-iOS
For an Android: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/200942759-Getting-Started-with-Android

ZOOM on a computer
You can test your internet connection, including the ability to connect to Zoom video and audio, before your hearing at http://zoom.us/test.
1. From an emailed hearing notice, click the hearing link provided by the court and Zoom will launch automatically.
2. If that does not work, or if you received a paper hearing notice from the court, type https://zoomgov.com/join in your browser’s address bar.
3. Enter the Meeting ID provided by the court.
4. If prompted, enter the Meeting Password.
5. Once in the hearing, you can update your name by clicking the Participants icon on the bottom of your screen. On the right panel, hover over your name, click More and then select Rename to update your name. If you are representing a party, include your role, for example, Joan Smith, attorney for defendant.
6. Click the Join Audio icon in the lower left-hand corner of your screen.
7. Click the Share Video icon.
For further assistance see:
https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362033-Getting-Started-on-Windows-and-Mac


What to Expect
– When you join a Virtual Courtroom, you will wait for your case to be called while in a virtual waiting room. There may be several cases set on the docket at that time. When your case is called, the court will bring you into the Virtual Courtroom.
– When you enter the Virtual Courtroom, your video will automatically be on and your audio muted. Please remain muted unless you are speaking and unmute your microphone before you speak. On a computer you will see a microphone on the bottom left of the screen. It will have a red line through it when you are muted. Below, the microphone is muted:

– Remember to speak one at a time, and to pause prior to speaking in case there is any audio/video lag. Be sure to announce yourself before you begin speaking.

Screen Name
– Your screen name should reflect your title and legal name. Include your office if it will help identify you. You may customize your name a number of ways:

1. From the Virtual Courtroom, click on the “Participants” icon at the bottom of the
window. A Participants window will appear. Hover the mouse over your name until you see “More.” Click “More.” Click the “Rename” button. Enter your new name in the “New Screen Name.” After clicking the blue “OK” button, your new name will appear.
2. On a smartphone, launch the Zoom app and select “Participants” at the bottom of the screen. Tap on your current name to open the editing menu, then choose Rename. Enter your new name in the “New Screen Name.” After clicking the blue “OK” button, your new name will appear.
3. If you have a Zoom account, you can customize your user profile, including your Screen Name preferences.

Witnesses
– You are responsible for ensuring your witness(es) have the information necessary to appear.
– Witnesses should plan to appear on video. Witnesses will be called as in any case, and the court will bring them in one at a time from the waiting room.
– Witnesses are only permitted in the Virtual Courtroom while they are testifying. Those testifying are not to hold notes or paperwork while testifying, just as though s/he were on the witness stand.
– Witnesses may be asked to answer questions posed by the Court, the Plaintiff/Petitioner, and/or the Defendant/Respondent.
– Once a witness is done testifying, the witness will leave the Virtual Courtroom and should not talk to anyone about his or her testimony until after the conclusion of the hearing.

Exhibits
– Exhibits, pictures, documents or anything the judge would need to review at the virtual hearing must be sent to the email address provided on your court notice preferably 7 days, but no less than 24 hours, in advance of the virtual court appearance.
– Please send all Exhibits in one email. You must include your case number in the subject line of your email; and name each document or picture as follows: P1, P2, P3 etc. (if you are the Plaintiff with a short description such as “P1 Lease”) or D1, D2, D3 etc. (if you are the Defendant with a short description such as “D1 Picture damage to car”).

Recording the Hearing
– Per O.C.G.A. § 15-1-10.1, no one is to record these proceedings unless you have prior approval of the presiding Judge.
– Any unauthorized recording is not official and shall not serve as a transcript for appeal purposes.
– The Court may record the hearing via Zoom solely for internal purposes. The Magistrate Court is not a court of record. This is not an official recording nor a transcript for use in an appeal of any kind. Any request for the Court’s recording will be denied.

Interpreters
– You can request an interpreter for your case. Please give the clerk at least 72 hours notice of the need for an interpreter.