February 2021 Update Regarding Disciplinary Trials During COVD-19 Pandemic
To: All Interested Parties
From: Mark A. Turner, Adjudicator
I would like to update you on conduct of disciplinary proceedings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, the health and safety of participants in disciplinary proceedings continues to be the primary concern guiding our decisions on how cases will proceed. All procedures used will comply with any applicable public health orders issued by appropriate authorities. My goal is to have the system move forward in a way that ensures procedural fairness for all.
On Friday, March 27, Chief Justice Martha Walters issued an emergency order, Chief Justice Order 2020-009, making amendments to the Bar Rules of Procedure during the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak.There were two changes relevant to scheduling and conduct of disciplinary proceedings. The first allows for trials and hearings to be conducted via remote participation if I determine it is necessary to comply with local, state, or national public health plans or recommendations.The second allows me to grant continuances exceeding 56 days in the aggregate for good cause.
Since issuance of the Order, all trials have been conducted via remote participation. We are using the Zoom platform. I believe that the proceedings have been efficient and fair to all participants. I plan to continue holding trials through remote participation until public health orders and recommendations provide we can hold trials in person without unreasonable risk.
In each case I have been issuing a standard form Order Regarding Zoom Hearing Protocols, a copy of which is available on the OSB website. It provides general information regarding system requirements and ways to ensure smooth participation in the hearing.
If remote participation presents a hardship in a particular case, please advise the Disciplinary Board Clerk as soon as you know that is the case. I will work with all concerned to ensure that no party is deprived of the opportunity to present their case in a procedurally fair manner. I am also open to any suggestions as to how we can improve our system regardless of whether they relate to our pandemic situation.
Working together, we have been able to adapt to our new environment. My best to all of you personally and professionally as you do the same in your own lives.
Mark A. Turner