It was a hearing like any other, except for the lawyer who couldn’t figure out how to turn off the cat filter on his Zoom call during a hearing in Texas’ 394th Judicial District Court. A clip of the incident featuring the fluffy grey feline has since gone viral.
“I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings,” The judge presiding over the case says in the beginning of the video.
“I don’t know how to remove it,” the attorney responds. “I’ve got my assistant here and she’s trying to.” And to keep the hearing moving, he adds: “I’m prepared to go forward with it.” Then clarifies: “I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”
This causes the attorney in the other box to finally look up and smile as the judge responds: “I can see that.”
The “Kitten Zoom Filter Mishap” video has gotten over 10 million views since it was posted on the court’s YouTube page on February 10. The presiding judge himself shared a link of the incident on his Twitter account.
The Texan attorney was apparently unaware he had become an international phenomenon until he started receiving calls from journalists. “If I can make the country chuckle for a moment in these difficult times they’re going through, I’m happy to let them do that at my expense,” he told The New York Times.
Humorous blunders of this kind are becoming more common as courtrooms across the U.S. adjust to conducting hearings, including civil asset forfeiture proceedings, online on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. Court practices changed almost overnight last March when coronavirus cases spiked and lockdown measures were implemented in several states. Government agencies at all levels were forced to transform how they conduct business to help limit COVID-19 transmission.
For example, courts in Michigan conducted more than 35,000 remote hearings from April 1 through June 1, 2020, totaling more than 200,000 hours of hearings. In lieu of access to a gallery, the public is given access to livestreams through online courtroom directories.
Critics of moving courts online argue that it affects a defendant’s ability to fully participate in a proceeding. However, civil asset forfeiture cases like the one in the viral cat lawyer video allow for full participation despite the occasional gaffe. This is because in a civil asset forfeiture case, the defendant is usually an item (cash, vehicle, real estate, etc.) a law enforcement agency has confiscated because it may be connected to criminal activity.
Police can use civil forfeiture to seize property even if the property owner has not been charged with a crime. A judge then determines whether or not the agency can keep the item or the proceeds from the sale of the item. Civil forfeiture can happen to anyone, and recovering seized property is a complicated process that will require assistance from an experienced attorney.
Nationwide Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Attorney
Has law enforcement taken away your property using civil asset forfeiture? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and get assistance from a nationwide federal civil asset forfeiture attorney.