Getting used to a Zoom-centered world last year was rough. After constantly checking everyone's internet connection and repeatedly telling your coworkers to mute themselves, you were pretty much guaranteed a throbbing headache after ten straight hours of staring at a computer screen if you worked remotely.
But one byproduct of the virtual meetings wave has been a highlight: the absolutely bonkers screenshots, recordings, and stories from Zoom court. Online court hearings have given us a window into people's personal lives and lack of tech savvy during some of the most inopportune moments, and it's been hard to look away. (Remember the Zoom cat lawyer?)
Miami Herald courts reporter David Ovalle has become the unofficial chronicler of Miami criminal court bloopers. His Twitter is a treasure trove of wacky and extremely 305 moments from the past year in the digital courtroom.
Ovalle's most famous tweet involved a defendant giving a man butt injections while in a Zoom hearing on her third-degree grand theft charges. The tweet garnered thousands of likes and became a national story.
MIAMI ZOOM COURT: We’ve reached peak 305. Someone appears to be getting a butt injection while appearing in a virtual hearing pic.twitter.com/2bRK3IATQz— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) April 21, 2021
That wasn't even the only instance of Ovalle getting a peek at a revealing medical procedure. This past April, someone showed up to court during a dental appointment and offered observers a POV shot from the dentist's chair:
MIAMI ZOOM COURT: Somebody appeared from the middle of a dental appointment pic.twitter.com/0IyH05Rgbb— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) April 9, 2021
"I always tell people the Miami courthouse is the ultimate theater. The people-watching is insane because it's a unique place where a lot of people from a lot of walks of life gather," Ovalle tells New Times. "[Zoom court] is just an extension of that, except now it's more intimate because people don't know they're on camera half the time."
A Miami inmate was mistakenly released from jail, spurring law enforcement to issue bulletins about his disappearance.— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) January 28, 2021
He surfaced in Zoom court, from an undisclosed location, a dog on his lap https://t.co/6efzD4rpe7 pic.twitter.com/Xphpj5qe8N
Oh no. In a Miami Zoom hearing, and the judge called a case, and suddenly someone was clearly in the middle of an argument and yelled out ""we talkin' about the two bumps on my penis right now!"— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) June 9, 2021
Miami Zoom Court - Most Miami screen name ever pic.twitter.com/2Z6kf4YSJi— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) January 4, 2021
Zoom court has also led to a more lax attitude on the part of some South Florida lawyers.
In April 2020, Broward Judge Dennis Bailey had to issue a warning to attorneys to dress appropriately for court — yes, even when appearing from home— after one male lawyer appeared shirtless and another showed up while still under the covers.
While the internet has loved the more scandalous and scantily clad Zoom court attendees, Ovalle says his favorites have been the animals.
South Florida is known for brimming with wildlife, and the Zoom courtrooms are apparently no different, especially with people working from home and taking care of their pets — even the barnyard kind.
People have shown up to online criminal hearings accompanied by dogs, goats, and even the occasional pig named Penny, whose owner gave her high praise when he got a case dismissed after introducing the porky pleader to the judge.
The goat was not the only animal in Miami Beach Zoom Court today.— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) February 4, 2021
Meet Penny the Pig, a rescue owned by lawyer Dan Lurvey. He says:
“I was fearful the judge heard her snorting so I had to introduce her. The case was dismissed so I am giving her an associates position.” pic.twitter.com/HI2HSfeSy8
For some attorneys, the court snafus haven't all been as wholesome as Penny the Pig's appearance. During a case in Tallahassee against state elections officials, Miami-based election lawyer Benedict Kuehne suffered an embarrassing moment of identity theft.
While Kuehne was delivering his opening statement, someone Zoom-bombed the hearing using his name and commenced a risqué performance.
"Music starts playing out of the box with my name, and some male figure starts doing a striptease and taking off his clothes. I'm going frantic. It was my first Zoom bomb, and it was with my name on the screen," Kuehne recounts. "I had to apologize to the judge and say, 'Your Honor, that wasn't me.'"
Kuehne says the experience was as embarrassing as could be, but the worst part? He says he could've done a better job himself.
"Not that I would do something like that, but if I were to, I'm in much better shape than the dancer," he says.
Dancing seems to be a recurring theme in Florida virtual court proceedings, especially in Zoom-bombings. Miami attorney David Winker recalls a hearing during a client's case against the City of Coral Gables over the construction of a Wawa gas station when one attendee couldn't help making an ass of themselves.
"About halfway through the hearing, this big butt shows up on screen, then some music starts up, and they start twerking. Someone somehow shared their screen and instead of seeing the judge's face, you just saw this big [butt] twerking," Winker says, adding that he now refers to the dance as "The Wawa."
The judge initially joked it off and turned off the screen-share function, but when the same twerking video started again ten minutes later, Winker says, the judge threatened to arrest whoever was streaming the booty if it happened again. (It seems the judge preferred to stick with the classic "All rise" rather than "Get low.")
On the more X-rated side of things, some court proceedings have been subject to not-so-family-friendly Zoom hacks.
Raychel Lean, bureau chief for the legal publication Daily Business Review, tells New Times of a case in Leon County when hackers infiltrated the court meeting to stream porn and blast expletive-ridden music in the middle of regular proceedings.
"That was dead awkward. The lawyers were just looking down and waiting for it all to be over," Lean says.
Now there’s porn. I edited the photo with the red mark. Audio was someone screaming “what the f...!” pic.twitter.com/iLpRQCIpVz— ArekSarkissian (@ArekSarkissian) July 10, 2020
As the world returns to normal and more folks go back to working in person, it's possible the internet won't offer as many virtual court snafus to enjoy. But then again, this is Florida, so chances are we'll see some more twerking in the courtroom before we know it.
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