Taking advantage of a relatively recent Illinois Supreme Court Rule, a bedridden man was allowed to testify through Skype against his wife in a Daley Center court proceeding earlier this month. Bedridden from a stroke, Emil Cogan was allowed to answer questions from his bedroom by talking into his laptop. His lawyer, Marie C. Fahnert, connected with her client on her IPad so that Judge Thomas J. Kelly and the other lawyer could watch and listen to Mr. Cogan’s testimony on February 5, 2013. Cook County Circuit Judge Carol Kamin Bellows had granted the request for video testimony in the case of In re the Marriage of Emil Kogan and Abella Edelstein, No. 11 D 6885.
Effective October 4, 2011, Illinois Supreme Court Rule 241 entitled “Use of Videoconference Technology in Civil Cases” provides that the trial court may “ for good cause shown in compelling circumstances and upon appropriate safeguards, permit presentation of testimony in open court by contemporaneous transmission from a different location.” As the Committee Comments state, adequate safeguards are necessary to ensure accurate witness identification and protect against influence by persons who may be present with the witness. Accurate transmission must also be ensured.
Most importantly, Ms. Fahnert said, the judge and attorneys got to see the witness’ face on screen. “My client’s face spoke volumes,” Fahnert said. Although such testimony is still rare, other Skype to Skype testimony has started to be allowed in other states.
This was a perfect example of our judiciary recognizing the usefulness of such modern technology to help individuals obtain justice. It is also an example of an astute lawyer utilizing available technology under the rules to benefit her client. Kudos to Ms. Fahnert.