Huntingdon Co. Court first in Central PA to use Zoom for court hearings; will broadcast them live to the public

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HUNTINGDON, Pa. (WTAJ) — Starting May 4, 2020, Huntingdon County courts will be the first in our area to use Zoom to host criminal and civil court hearings and broadcast them out live online for the public.

Zoom calls are becoming the new norm for co-workers, and friends. And soon they’ll be used in Huntingdon County court, at least through the end of May.

“It’s mandatory, starting May 4th, that attorneys and litigants participate in these hearings through Zoom,” George Zanic, President Judge said.

Zanic says the Supreme court gave all president judges the power to choose how they handle the court system right now.

With the cases piling up close to 500 in criminal and civil court, Judge Zanic feels that using video chat is the safest and most efficient way to process cases.

Even after the pandemic is over, Zanic feels the process of using Zoom should continue.

There are a lot of times in a rural county like Huntingdon where people can’t get to court, and if we have rules in place to address those issues, we can have hearings online, I’m all in favor of that.”

George Zanic, President Judge

In transitioning hearings to Zoom, Judge Zanic says transparency is key. This means for the first time ever hearings in the county will be live streamed while in session.

What isn’t changing is that you still can’t record them. It’s still against the law and forbidden for folks to do even at home.

Huntingdon County DA David Smith says the tech won’t have much impact on an attorney’s ability to present evidence

“We have the ability to introduce documents, we can play videos, so for older attorneys who aren’t very computer savvy, it’s straightforward and easy, and doesn’t take much at all,” Smith said.

Attorneys and state police are in the process of being trained on new procedures for the Zoom hearings.

They must also have their video on at all times while they’re in session..

We’re told court staff will clear all participants before they join in.

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