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Zoom Filters: From Catastrophe to Teachable Moment

By Kelli Day - For many of us, 2020 was filled with a least a few flashbulb memories – some positive and some negative. “Flashbulb” memories are those most often associated with exceptionally important historical or autobiographical events. They ground our sense of self.

Depending on what generation you belong to, you may have flashbulb memories of the moon landing, Michael Jackson’s passing, or when Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal.

For those of us in the legal profession, a key flashbulb memory was created when in-person Court operations were suspended in March of 2020 in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby catapulting us (alongside the rest of the world) into new virtual era. Since then, we have become accustomed to virtual client meetings, virtual commissioning, virtual examinations, virtual mediations, and even virtual court hearings – all made possible through the magic of Zoom, and other videoconferencing platforms.

On February 9, 2021, another strong candidate for a flashbulb memory emerged when an adorable but seemingly terrified kitten appeared in Zoom Court before the Honourable Judge Roy Ferguson of the 394th judicial circuit in Texas and took the world by storm. With tears in his kitten eyes, attorney Rod Ponton assured the court that he was, and I quote, "not a cat" thereby displacing any lingering doubt. Impressively, Mr. Ponton reassured the Court that he was “prepared to go forward” notwithstanding the fact that he looked like a terrified kitten. Luckily for us, this exchange was recorded and has been furrever memorialized on the Court’s YouTube channel:

Judge Ferguson took to Twitter following the hearing to provide what he called an 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.” His Honour graciously emphasized that, “these fun moments are a by-product of the legal profession's dedication to ensuring that the justice system continues to function in these tough times. Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!”

I think we can all agree that we needed this new flashbulb memory during this difficult time. Cats off to the Honourable Judge Ferguson and whoever used Mr. Ponton's computer pre-hearing for making this bright spot in our collective Tuesday afternoon possible. I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first watched this historic YouTube clip – in my apartment, at my standing desk, working from home in classic pandemic fashion. Where were you?

For the full thread from Judge Ferguson, here is the link to His Honour’s Twitter feed:

For step-by-step instructions for adding and removing Zoom filters, check out this blog:

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