The Appeal: Virtual Hearings Have Created A ‘Caste System’ In America’s Courts

“Particularly problematic is the fact that many courts have closed to all but those hearings determined to be emergencies. The deferment of so many legal proceedings raises its own set of dilemmas, particularly for people who are incarcerated while awaiting a trial. Child welfare cases have proved especially fraught for some parents. Many jurisdictions are hearing motions that determine whether a child is removed from their home, and very little else.

“Now that it’s all over the phone or virtual, it feels more detached, it feels more confusing. Clients are sharing a lot of their frustrations and they don’t know what’s happening,” said Suah Kim, a social worker in the family defense practice of the Bronx Defenders in New York City. “It feels like to them everything is happening without them; it feels like everyone is making decisions [about the custody of their child] without them, without anyone listening to them, hearing them, and taking the time to understand their story.”

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