CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Syroka on Rule 53 and Virtual Criminal Hearings

Benjamin Syroka has posted Pre-Trial Proceedings in the Post-Pandemic World: Amending Federal Criminal Rule 53 for Virtual Criminal Hearings (Federal Bar Association Litigation Section Newsletter (SideBAR), Fall 2023; Federal Bar Association Younger Lawyers Division Newsletter (Perspectives), Summer 2023) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), passed in 2020, included a provision much of the general public never noticed—it afforded federal courts the flexibility to utilize video and telephone conferencing in criminal cases. Over the past four years, virtual or “Zoom hearings” became a staple in criminal pre-trial hearings. But the authorization to use this technology expired in May 2023, and the judiciary now grapples with the prohibition on virtual criminal hearings.

This article advocates for an amendment to Federal Criminal Rule 53, which currently prohibits all "broadcasting" of criminal hearings. By slightly amending Rule 53, we can improve access to justice for defendants and pave the way for more efficient criminal dockets. Forget about “waiting for the host to start the meeting”—we’re about to login to a new digital era of federal criminal procedure.

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