Testifying can be scary. Why? Because most people don't know what it is—or how to deal with the opposing party's lawyer. Therefore, in this article, I will address the following:
- What is Testifying?
- What is Remote Testifying?
- How do you Prepare for your Remote Testimony?
- Where should you be When Remotely Testifying?
- What Should you Expect or be prepared for from the Opposing Party's Attorney?
- What are the Remote Testimony Do's and Don'ts?
WHAT IS TESTIFYING?
If you have filed a civil lawsuit against your landlord for a return of your security deposit, for illegally locking you out or for a partial rent refund—or if your landlord has filed an eviction against you, you are in an active lawsuit. In lawsuits, you must prepare to testify in the presence of the Court.
Traditionally, witnesses have been required to come to the courthouse to testify. Testifying is being asked a series of questions and then, being required to answer those questions under oath. Being under oath means promising to tell the truth.
WHAT IS REMOTE TESITIFYING?
“Remote” means that you are doing something without physically being in the location where the action is actually taking place. Thus, remote testimony means giving your answers to questions while somewhere else other than the courthouse.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR YOUR REMOTE TESTIMONY?
Since you will be testifying remotely, you have to make sure that your equipment is sufficient to make the appearance. If the appearance is telephonic, make sure that your telephone signal is strong. If your appearance is by video, make sure that your telephone signal and/or wifi signal is strong enough and has enough bandwidth to function appropriately.
WHERE SHOULD YOU BE WHEN REMOTELY TESTIFYING?
You should be in a quiet room alone, with no distractions. See the “do's” below.
WHAT SHOULD YOU EXPECT OR BE PREPARED FOR FROM THE OPPOSING PARTY'S ATTORNEY?
You must be prepared for an opposing attorney who will emphasize the strong points of the landlord's case, ignore or try to explain away the weak points of the landlord's case, and try to poke holes in your case. So, don't be surprised if opposing counsel attempts to ridicule you or your version of the facts. Don't be surprised if opposing counsel suggest that you are lying or wrong. He or she may even attempt to put words in your mouth by getting you to admit certain facts by asking you confusing or highly suggestive questions.
As a result, be prepared and ready. Indeed, have your guard up. Therefore, be truthful, but be very careful.
Also, remotely testifying makes all kinds of tricks available to opposing counsel. This is especially true with documents—called exhibits—that are given to the court. Therefore, be real careful in identifying or discussing documents or giving quick answers.
WHAT ARE THE REMOTE TESTIMONY DO'S AND DON'TS?
Do let the court and/or your attorney know if you do not have an adequate phone, an adequate phone signal, or adequate access to the internet. The court and/or your lawyer may be able to help you find a way to participate or may postpone the hearing.
Do visit the video call website (such as Zoom) or a video sharing website (YouTube) for guides, helpful videos, and additional information.
Do prepare for your remote/virtual/internet/telephonic hearing. If you plan to participate in your hearing by video, download the video application before your scheduled hearing. Be sure to test your speaker, microphone, and camera before the hearing.
If the hearing is by video, do dress appropriately, like you would if actually going to the courthouse to testify.
Do limit distractions during your hearing. For example, put all of your pets and other things that may be a distraction in a different room. Find a quiet place to participate in the hearing.
Do keep your device on mute when not speaking. Keeping your phone, mobile device, or computer on mute unless speaking reduces feedback and limits background noise.
Do call the court or your attorney in advance if you want to present evidence. If you have documents or witnesses you want available for your hearing, check with your attorney if you are represented by counsel. Otherwise, check the judge's website or call the court for more information.
Do make sure others using your Wi-Fi network minimize their usage during your hearing so you have the best possible connection.
Do not ignore the remote/telephonic/virtual hearing. If you cannot make the hearing or have a conflict, notify your attorney and/or the court.
Do not talk over others; it makes it hard for the judge and others to hear. Wait to speak until asked to by the judge or by the attorney(s).
Do not do other things while on the call. Just like in an actual courtroom, you must pay attention to make sure you don't miss something important that is said or something the judge asks you to do.