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Imagine Being on the Witness Stand, Turning to the Judge and Saying "Smile Judge! It's Selfie Time!" Can It Happen? Here in New York?

It's inevitable.

Some witness, while on the witness stand, whips out their phone and with a pouty face turns to the trial Judge and says "Smile Judge! We're taking a selfie for the world to see!"

Hmm...

Do you think that could happen?

Do you think it would happen?

What do you think the Judge would say?

What do you think the court officer would say?

What do you think your attorney would say?

What do you think the defense attorney would say?

With today's use of smartphones and social media, taking a selife has become so common.

Everywhere we go, people want to take a photograph of themselves showing their friends and family where they are and what they're doing.

This narcissistic behavior intrudes into every aspect of our lives.

Just scroll down your Facebook feed to see how many people post pictures of themselves doing different activities.

It might be in a restaurant.

It might be in a theater.

It might be on vacation.

It might be at the pool.

It might be in school.

The headline raises an interesting problem.

Why a problem?

Because cameras are not allowed in the courtroom in New York.

What about smartphones?

Yes, smartphones are allowed.

But, you can't have a phone conversation inside the courtroom.

You can't use your smartphone to tweet and send instant messages if you're a juror.

What if someone were to use their smartphone to video the trial?

Could they do that?

According to the current court rules, the answer is no.

There's no videotaping allowed in the courtroom.

Photographs are not permitted either.

Will the jury understand a witness's desire to take a selfie with the judge prior to testifying?

I think they would see it as ridiculous.

I think they would view the witness with skepticism.

I think they'd wonder why this person is more worried about their social media rather than giving testimony in this case.

It's not as if one of the Kardashian's was on trial giving testimony.

We're talking about a witness or a litigant in a medical malpractice trial.

Maybe it's a car accident trial.

Maybe it's a wrongful death trial.

In each of these cases, you have an injured victim who's trying to obtain money as a form of compensation for all the harms, losses and injuries they suffered because of someone else's carelessness.

This is a serious matter.

It's serious for the injured victim.

It's also serious for the people who have been sued.

It's serious for the attorneys who represent each side.

It's serious for the judge, the court clerk and the court officer.

Someone who whimsically takes a selfie on the witness stand may not take this case seriously.

You might think taking a selfie in court is ridiculous.

You might think this is impossible.

You might think that no witness would ever try and take a selfie on the witness stand with the judge behind them.

Stranger things have happened.

Imagine a witness or a juror trying to live stream a video feed from the trial.

We now have the ability to use our smartphones and go on Facebook to livestream exactly what's happening in real time.

Why can't we livestream the trial?

Why can't we show the world exactly what's going on during a civil trial?

Because the courts in the state of New York have very specific rules.

Litigants who appear in court must abide by those rules.

Witness who come to court to testify must abide by those rules.

Failure to abide by the court rules has repercussions.

Penalties.

Legal threats.

Also, there is a risk that the jury will be alienated by this whimsical behavior.

The last people you would ever want to alienate are the jurors.

Why?

Because in a jury trial, six members of the community decide whether an injured victim is more likely right than wrong that what she is claiming is true.

Jurors must decide which witnesses are credible.

Credibility plays a huge factor in helping the jury decide whether the injured victim is more likely right than wrong.

Anything the witness does to destroy or hamper their credibility can help to destroy the side they are testifying for.

To learn more about a witness taking a selfie with the judge while on the witness stand, I invite you to watch the quick video below...


Gerry Oginski
NY Medical Malpractice & Personal Injury Trial Lawyer