Supreme Court goes remote

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court made history Tuesday when it heard cases on its oral argument docket remotely.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court’s five justices used Webex to log on from home or their offices to hear three child abuse and neglect cases.

The attorneys arguing the cases could also be seen on the screen.

“The health of our fellow West Virginians is a top priority at this challenging time. The Supreme Court is joining courts throughout our state in holding time-sensitive hearings by telephone and video technology,” said Chief Justice Tim Armstead said when the remote hearings were originally announced.

When cases are argued in person before the Supreme Court, justices usually interrupt when they have a question for those presenting their arguments. Tuesday, Armstead called on the justices one-by-one to see if they had any questions for the attorneys.

The boxes on the screen where the justices were located also had an superimposed image for a background shot that it made it look like the justices were sitting in their chamber at the state capitol.

Armstead, who issued an emergency order last month that continues to impact the court system statewide, tweeted after Tuesday’s first-ever remote argument docket.

“For the first time in our State’s history your Supreme Court held oral arguments remotely, hearing child abuse and neglect and criminal cases. The justices and the attorneys were in different locations – I participated from Elkview. We had a valuable discussion of the cases,” Armstead said.

The Court is scheduled to hear more cases next week.

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