As if I didn't have enough trouble in this State, I once became involved in an important legal matter in another State. This meant that every time I was supposed to have a hearing, I could have been required to get on a plane and spend hundreds of dollars for the flight ticket, rental car and hotel accommodations.
However, lucky for me, this was a State where the Court felt quite comfortable holding telephonic hearings and went out of the way to make them possible for me. Yes, I did have the occasional problem with an officious clerk here and there who tried to obstruct me, but basically the judge was supportive. Also, in this State they have a rule of Court that allows for telephonic hearings and so I could just cite the provision as the basis for my motion for a telephonic hearing.
Unfortunately, while this other State was so courteous and respectful of my needs, this is not the case when it comes to the State of Connecticut. If anyone from that other State tried to get a telephonic hearing here in Connecticut, they would not necessarily be treated to reciprocity.
Recently, a friend of mine who wished to participate in a hearing this upcoming week in CT Family Court by telephone had the judge deny her request for a telephonic hearing. My belief is that he did this simply because he is mean spirited.
Now, if we were talking a telephonic hearing from say New Jersey or New Hampshire, I could see turning that down. I mean seriously, New Jersey has the nerve to call itself The Garden State! And that live free or die thing gets pretty annoying. These New Hampshire types need to stop hiding away in the woods. However, this friend of mine lives in far away California.
Like many other people, I have been subject to that East Coast/West Coast fever that drives coasters to go for the other coast on the other side of the country. I have, therefore, travelled to Los Angeles and San Francisco and enjoyed its sun drenched streets to the full. What I want you folks to know who haven't yet caught the bug is that it takes pretty much a full day to travel all the way across country.
So were I to travel round trip for a hearing in California, that means the one full day, or night, I suppose you can catch a red eye, there, plus another full day back, plus the day of the hearing. That is a full three days in order to make it to a single one or two hour hearing.
Given the time involved, I have to say I thought that it was pretty unfortunate that the judge here refused to be flexible enough to allow my friend to have a telephonic hearing. It kind of makes the people of Connecticut look like a bunch of rednecks.
Since our judicial system is based on some important Judeo-Christian values, I took a look at what the bible has to say about such nasty behavior towards people from Out of State. In fact, the bible specifically says don't act like that. For example, Deuteronomy 1:16 (NRSV) "I charged your judges at that time: 'Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien." There is also Deuteronomy 27:19 (NRSV) “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”
So if you are a judge and you are depriving an alien (read Out of State person) justice, you are in direct violation of what God wants from you. And just in case you were wondering, there are many more injunctions of a similar kind throughout the bible--I was just mentioning a few. For instance my personal favorite, Hebrews 13:2 (NRSV) "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it."
My point is not to get all religious on you, but simply to say that this is what civilized behavior is all about. I am personally embarrassed when a Judge in my own State can't seem to understand that concept.
I was lucky that the State where my legal proceeding was taking place had a policy regarding telephonic hearings. But what about the State of Connecticut. What do we have in place? Was there any legal basis for the judge's decision to deny my friend a telephonic hearing? The closest I could get to a provision on telephonic hearings was in the Connecticut Practice Book 25a-4 in Procedures in Family Support Magistrates Matters. This section goes as follows:
Sec. 25a-4. Telephonic Hearings
judicial authority shall upon written motion or on
its own motion permit an individual to testify by
telephone or other audio electronic means.
(b) In any case where permitted by law, the
judicial authority may, upon written motion or on
its own motion, permit an individual to testify by
telephone or other audio electronic means.
(c) Upon an order for a telephonic hearing, the
judicial authority shall set the date, time and place
for such hearing and shall issue an order in connection
There are other provisions such as Connecticut Practice Book Chapter 13-30(g) which allows for depositions to be taken by telephonic means.
I am also aware that for self-represented persons who are incarcerated there are provisions in place to conduct hearings by videoconferencing.
I will grant you that there is nothing in Chapter 25 the section on family matters, unlike Chapter 25a which has to do with child support issues, which allows for a telephone conference. But if there isn't, shouldn't there be?
Is there some implication that hearings on child support more easily lend themselves to a telephonic conference than would other issues related to family matters? If so, I don't think that makes sense.
There is no doubt that in this day and age with videoconferencing equipment pretty much available in the majority of courthouses, with Skype available on everyone's computer for free, and cell phones everywhere you go, there is no excuse for refusing to allow a telephonic hearing, particularly if neither party objects.
It would be different if no one used telephonic hearings in family matters, but in fact, it is my impression that Family Court uses telephonic hearings frequently. In my Family Court matter, when I was disabled by a temporary health problem, the Judge ordered a telephonic hearing even though I hadn't asked for it and didn't want one.
Ultimately, I guess, in Connecticut the question of whether to allow a telephonic hearing is a matter of judicial discretion.
I would think that in the situation with my friend any judge would realize that a round trip ticket to Connecticut, plus hotel and rental car pretty much adds up to $1,000.00 in expenses plus minimally two days of lost time at work. As a matter of leveling the playing field and showing respect for the challenges any Out of State resident faces in a Family Court matter where there are sure to be numerous hearings, you would think that the better part of judicial discretion would have been to approve the telephonic hearing.
But there is such a thing, and we know all about it, where the Judge has local ties to the litigant here in Connecticut and prefers to burden the Out of State litigant with extra costs. What this kind of judge doesn't take into account is that children have a relationship with both parents. Even when one relationship is stronger than the other, or one side has greater legal rights than the other, if you bully the losing party, the child will always end up being hurt one way or another.
The time is now for judges to use their judicial discretion to allow for telephonic hearings on behalf of Out of State litigants. The time is now for judges to stop the mean spiritedness. The time is now to put Practice Book Rules into place for telephonic hearings in Family Court Matters with Out of State litigants, and to stop the nonsense.