Article on Rhode Island Business Calendar’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic

Rhode Island Business Court Judge Brian Stern has co-authored an article with Rhode Island attorney Christopher J. Fragomeni, on how the Rhode Island Superior Court’s Business Calendar has adapted to the Covid-19 crisis. A copy of the article, An Introduction to the Business Calendar, the Business Recovery Program, and Virtual Hearings, can be found here.

The article gives a brief Business Calendar history since its 2001 inception, in the overall context of business court development in the United States. It then addresses the Business Calendar’s role in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, observing that “[t]he Superior Court has taken two major steps to combat the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the State’s businesses. First, recognizing the devastating financial impact that the virus has inflicted upon businesses, the Superior Court created the COVID-19 Business Recovery Plan, a non-liquidating receivership program administered by the Business Calendar.” We have previously summarized this program on the Business Courts Blog.

“Second, at the outset of the pandemic, the Rhode Island Supreme Court procured, and the Superior Court implemented, a remote video conferencing system to address the lack of immediate access to the Business Calendar and its expeditious resolution process. The Presiding Justice authorized the Business Calendar to conduct certain conferences remotely. Initially, the Business Calendar used the remote video conferencing system for chambers conferences and other ex parte relief. However, after running a pilot, videoconference hearing procedure, the Business Calendar has implemented tools to create a virtual courtroom to conduct hearings.”

A copy of the full article, detailing these developments and answering questions, can be found here.

As the authors observe, all involved in the legal system will have to put aside our anxieties to some degree so we can meet these new challenges. This means not only adapting, but also being open to potentially positive experiences with these new means of practicing law.

“With the roll out of this virtual courtroom, however, participants will need to keep an open mind. Change, after all, is ever present in the practice of law as it adapts to technological advances. Faxes have turned into emails, typewriters have evolved to computers, legal research occurs online instead of in the library, cell phones make communication instantly accessible, and paper, in-person filing of court documents has become electronic. While challenging at the outset, these innovations brought about some positive changes. So, before dismissing the idea of a virtual courtroom, remember a commercial for Life Cereal in the 1970s about a boy named Mikey. Keep an open mind as you begin to learn about this new process. Who knows—it may become the new norm and you may like it!”

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