Seeing Through the Mask: The Art of Litigating with COVID PPE

Seeing Through the Mask: the Art of Litigating with COVID PPE

When the coronavirus pandemic set in and courtrooms shut down, the courts in New York went virtual. As helpful as the virtual option was, the fact remained that litigation, which decides issues with real effects on lives, was extremely challenging in an online environment. Now that divorce litigation is taking place inside courtrooms again, everyone is wearing face coverings, and that presents some unique challenges of its own.

In one respect, divorce litigation is storytelling. The client is the hero, the soon-to-be-former spouse is the villain, the lawyers are the narrators, the witnesses have their roles to play and the judge is the audience. The narrators speak to the audience and in doing so they do their best to paint pictures of the characters in the judge’s mind. When telling a story, seeing people’s faces can make all the difference. The faces can tell us whether the story is being understood or if more detail is needed.

In the COVID-19 era, however, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), i.e. face coverings, means the story must be told differently. For example, witnesses must wear face coverings while giving testimony in court. As a result, all the lawyer can see is the witness’s eyes. The lawyer can’t see the witness’ facial expressions when questions are asked, which means subtle facial cues that give lawyers a sense for how a witness is handling the spotlight are not visible.

This simple reality makes a divorcing person’s choice of lawyer even more important than usual. A highly experienced attorney with many divorce trials under his/her belt will have a better chance of reading the room — the witnesses, the judge, the opposing party — despite the lack of facial expressions. More emphasis must be placed on listening to the tone of a person’s voice and the way they use their eyes than ever before.

Beyond that, a lawyer who has practiced in local family courts for many years will be familiar to the judges already. A good reputation now goes further than ever. If everyone is behind masks, lawyers who are familiar to the judge are more likely to get accommodations from the judge.

The divorce lawyers at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. are ready to tell your story. We have what it takes to succeed in divorce litigation in the COVID-19 world. To get a free consultation with an attorney, call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online. We serve Suffolk County, Nassau County and all of Long Island.

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