At the onset of Covid in March, 2020, the Vermont Supreme Court declared a judicial emergency, suspending all non-essential court hearings. Hearings have resumed, but many are still being held remotely, including arraignments, which are ground zero for all criminal cases. An arraignment is the first time that defendants appear in front of a judge. They’re informed of their charges and they enter a plea. And for defendants working with a public defender, it’s often the first time they meet their attorney, or even see their attorney. But since Covid, nobody’s seeing much of anyone in person. The judge might be at home, the defense attorney’s in his office, the state’s attorney’s in another office, and the defendant on the phone, or lodged in jail, as the case may be. Instead of appearing in court, they meet on a scratchy channel called WebEx. So what does justice lose when human contact is lost?
Attorneys Dan Sedon and Mike Shane, Sedon and Ericson
George Contois, court officer at Orange County Courthouse
Music by Brian Clark