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Guidelines for Remote Evidentiary Hearings

Guidelines for Remote Evidentiary Hearings

Before the United States Bankruptcy Court for the

Western District of Virginia

            These guidelines apply and must be followed in any evidentiary hearing conducted by remote means before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Virginia.

Witnesses

            In accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 43(a) (made applicable by Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 9017) and Federal Rule of Evidence 611, for good cause and in compelling circumstances, a witness may be permitted to testify by contemporaneous transmission from a location other than the courtroom.  If the Court has found good cause and compelling circumstances to conduct an evidentiary hearing by remote means, any witness called to testify or subject to cross-examination during a remote hearing shall be permitted to testify by contemporaneous transmission from a different location (“Remote Witness”).

            All Remote Witnesses shall be affirmed over video, and such testimony will have the same effect and be binding upon the Remote Witness in the same manner as if such Remote Witness was affirmed by the courtroom deputy in person in open court.

            Each Remote Witness shall provide his or her testimony from a quiet room and must situate himself or herself in such a manner as to be able to both view the video feed and be seen by the Court.

            The Remote Witness may not communicate with any other person regarding the subject of the testimony, by electronic means or otherwise, during the hearing.  If the Remote Witness or counsel seek to communicate with one another, either shall openly request a recess for such purpose.  If such request is granted by the Court, the Remote Witness and counsel may privately confer “offline” or in a breakout room.

            The party sponsoring a Remote Witness shall ensure that the witness has printed copies of all exhibits filed with the Court by all counsel prior to the start of the hearing.  In lieu of printed copies, a witness may have electronic copies that will be readily accessible and reviewable by the witness during testimony.

 

 

 

Counsel Best Practices

The Court provides the following as best practices in video hearings to be conducted in the Western District of Virginia:

  1. Prepare for video hearings just as you would for in person hearings.
  2. Continue to conduct yourself professionally and dress appropriately.  If travelling, please have court appropriate attire available for use.
  3. Please do not wear a mask when addressing the Court or counsel, and advise witnesses of the same requirement.  If personal health or safety is a concern for either counsel or a witness, please make arrangements to conduct the hearing from  appropriate, and if necessary separate, locations.
  4. Please do not use speakerphones, and please avoid the use of cell phones if possible. If cellphone use is a necessity, please contact the courtroom deputy for advance permission.
  5. Neither counsel nor witnesses should appear or testify from vehicles.
  6. Counsel and witnesses should keep phones on mute until necessary to speak.  Be mindful of background noise.
  7. Please do not use virtual backgrounds.
  8. If you have not participated in a video hearing, or if you have questions about how to do so, please reach out to the courtroom deputy several days in advance of your hearing.  Do not wait until the day of the hearing.

Exhibits

            All exhibits must be filed electronically prior to the hearing in accordance with the Exhibit Instructions on the Court’s website at http://www.vawb.uscourts.gov/?q=exhibit-instructions-attorney.  Unless the Court orders otherwise, filing of any exhibit shall not require the exhibit to be offered into evidence at the hearing, nor shall any proposed exhibit be considered as evidence unless offered and admitted at the hearing.

            Contemporaneously with filing the exhibits, parties must provide the filed exhibits by electronic mail to counsel for each of the parties who has made an appearance in the pending matter.

            Any document that may be used solely for impeachment or rebuttal at the hearing need not be filed prior to the hearing on CM/ECF.  If counsel uses a document solely for impeachment or rebuttal at the hearing, counsel must be prepared to simultaneously email a PDF copy of the document to the Court, the witness and opposing counsel during the hearing.

Observation of Hearings for Nonparticipants

            All other attorneys, parties in interest, or members of the public who do not intend to participate in the hearings but wish to hear or observe any scheduled hearing shall send an email to VAWBml_Connelly_Scheduling@vawb.uscourts.gov (for Judge Connelly’s hearings) or Sabrina_Lee@vawb.uscourts.gov (for Judge Black’s hearings) via electronic mail no later than 4:30 p.m. prevailing Eastern Time two business days prior to the scheduled hearing.  Attorneys, parties-in-interest, and the public must provide the following information in their email: (1) the first and last name of each person who will connect to the hearing; (2) a telephone number for any person connecting by telephone; (3) the law firm you are affiliated with (if applicable); (4) and the client you represent (if applicable).