The first jury trial by Zoom is taking place in Texas

By Isobel Asher Hamilton

The courtroom is starting to move onto Zoom.

A legal case in Texas commenced unusually on Monday — the jury was selected over Zoom.

Per Reuters, more than 24 potential jurors logged onto Zoom through a variety of devices for selection, and they were guided through the process by two judges. A recording of the selection process was streamed live to YouTube.

"For centuries if you've got jury duty you have to go to the courthouse for jury duty, in this case the courthouse has come to you. But I want you to see this as jury duty. You're not at home during jury duty. You're at jury duty, you just happen to be at home," said Judge Keith Dean.

He reminded the jurors that to simulate a courtroom setting, there would be times when they would need to maintain some privacy from their household. "You're going to have to tell whoever's in your home there are going to be times when they're going to have to leave the room and not be listening in," said Dean.

Judge Emily Miskel helped guide the jurors and lawyers through the technicalities of Zoom, and projected a picture of the courthouse behind her. At one point Judge Miskel asked the lawyers if they wanted her to group half the jurors into a "breakout room" because the number of participants on the call made it hard to see them all at once.

"Yeah your honor I think it would be easier, it looks like when we're looking at all of them it's like the 'Brady Bunch' on steroids, so splitting them in half may be the better thing to do," said lawyer for the plaintiff Matthew Pearson.

The case is an insurance dispute, and according to Dean is expected to last about a week although the jurors would only be present for one to two days. Specifically the case is a summary jury trial, which means the jury's verdict is non-binding. Following the verdict, which gives an idea of how the case would play out in front of a real jury, the parties sit down to a mediation. Court officials told Reuters this non-binding format made the case a good trial-run for using Zoom.

Some court proceedings have already moved onto teleconferencing platforms, but this is the first case to bring a jury onboard as well. Judge Miskel told Reuters the case would show whether a "hybrid approach" to court proceedings is possible, with jury selection happening virtually and the rest of the case being conducted in person.