With COVID-19 prompting many to consider alternative ways of conducting business, a former college basketball player and coach turned law firm founder sees potential in online jury trials.
“As attorneys, we are all looking for innovative ways to move trials through the system that have been delayed due to the pandemic,” Bluffview resident Amy M. Stewart said.
She earned her bachelor’s degree at Wake Forest University and her law degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2006.
Stewart founded her Dallas law firm in 2017, and in May, helped Collin County conduct what law360.com described as likely the nation’s first virtual summary jury trial.
“It is time to take a stand for what is right.”Amy M. Stewart
The Stewart Law Group represents the defendant in Virtuwave Holdings LLC v. State Farm Lloyds.
“Just like in real trial, I loved engaging with the jurors during jury selection,” Stewart said. “Obviously, conducting it over Zoom made it more challenging because you want to feel ‘connected’ with the potential jurors.”
In a summary trial, attorneys prepare for mediation by presenting abbreviated versions of their cases to see how jurors in a regular trial might respond.
“Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised how engaging the potential jurors were throughout the entire summary jury trial process,” she said. “You could tell that not only were they taking their oath seriously and paying attention, the jurors understood that we together were making history.”
Stewart, born to a Black father and White mother in North Carolina, wants to see more history made this fall.
PN: As demonstrators across the country push for a more just nation, what changes do you, as someone who works in the justice system, want to see?
Amy: I want all Americans, no matter their race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, to open their hearts and minds to feel and start to understand how racial injustice has been tightly woven into our country’s fabric. It is time to take a stand for what is right. The recent incidents involving George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have shined a spotlight on the unfortunate and far too frequent injustices happening to Black Americans that must be reckoned at the ballot box. The same demonstrators who have put their health at risk to attend rallies during a pandemic need to show up to vote in November, or all of the pain, tears, and loss of life will be for naught.
PN: What do you bring from your experiences on the basketball court to the courtroom?
Amy: Preparation is the key to being successful in anything in life, including on the court and courtroom. We would practice six days a week to prepare for one game. Similarly, with lawsuits, you can work up a case for years before you get to trial or a substantive hearing on the merits. The work ethic, persistence, and the importance of thorough preparation are engrained in me from years of being a student-athlete and coach. As I tell my associates all the time, we call it the legal “practice” for a reason.
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