Trials & Litigation

Lawyer's Zoom hearing is a purr-fect storm tech glitch

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The cat is out of the bag. County Attorney Rod Ponton of Presidio County, Texas, appeared on Zoom for a court hearing around 11 a.m. Tuesday. By the afternoon, he was a YouTube star.

Ponton appeared as an adorable kitten on the video because of a filter on the computer that he was using.

“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video setting,” said Judge Roy Ferguson of the 394th Judicial District Court.

Ponton’s wide kitten eyes look to the bottom of his screen.

“Can you hear me, judge?” he asked.

Ferguson replied in the affirmative and repeated that the filter is on.

“It is,” Ponton replied as the kitten’s mouth moved. “I don’t know how to remove it.”

Ponton informed Ferguson that his assistant was trying to remove the filter, and he was ready to proceed with the case.

“I’m here live. I am not a cat,” he said, stating the obvious.

Ponton told the ABA Journal that he was using his secretary’s computer in a remote office when he saw his kitten face appear on the monitor as Ferguson opened the Zoom hearing. It took about 30 seconds to get rid of the filter.

Ponton says his secretary “was mortified when it happened because she wants to make sure her boss is professional. It’s just one of those computer things that happened, and we fixed it. I had no clue it would be a topic on the Twitterverse for a day.”

The other people in the video were an assistant district attorney and a lawyer waiting for another case before the judge, Ponton says.

Ponton represents Presidio County in civil matters and in misdemeanor prosecutions. The case before Ferguson was a status hearing in a civil forfeiture case in which Ponton was representing the county, and the assistant district attorney was representing the state.

Ponton told the ABA Journal that he’s reasonably adept on a computer, but not as adept as “the younger crowd.”

Ferguson tweeted a link to the video and wrote, “Important Zoom tip: If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom video options to be sure filters are off.”

Among the publications covering the video are the Houston Chronicle and Vice.

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