US Attorney Advises Clients to Use McDonald's Wi-Fi

A US attorney has advised clients without a smartphone or mobile device to borrow one from a friend or neighbor and use the free WiFi provided by McDonald's to log onto virtual court hearings.

Elisabeth Trefonas, a senior assistant public defender based in Jackson, Wyoming, told the Associated Press that clients had experienced difficulties accessing hearings that have been held online since lockdown measures were introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Some of our clients don’t have tablets or smart devices,” said Trefonas, adding that she had also advised folks to connect via the free WiFi offered by public libraries. 

The Teton County Courthouse has been closed to the public since March 24, with Judge Timothy Day and Teton County Circuit Court Judge Jim Radda holding virtual hearings only. Instead of being surrounded by defendants, attorneys, victims, a bailiff, a clerk, court security, reporters, and spectators, Day and Radda simply sit on their own with a computer.

“All the video stuff I do from court with my robe on,” Day told the Jackson Hole News&Guide in a video interview. “It’s just me.”

Day said that despite the challenges posed by performing his role virtually, it was vital to keep the wheels of justice turning. 

“It is more important than ever during this that people have confidence the justice system is still working,” Day said. “Their rights are being protected, the rule of law is still being followed and it is important we continue to do as many hearings as we can.”

To facilitate the new way of operating, court orders are allowing attorney to e-file documents so they can meet filing deadlines and represent clients without visiting the courthouse in person. 

After a couple of weeks of advising defendants without smart devices or tablets to borrow from their friends or neighbors, the court settled on a different solution. 

“We have purchased a tablet and set up a hotspot in the lobby of the courthouse,” said Day, “It allows people to connect here.”

Head of court security, Teton County Sheriff’s Corporal Mike Crook, said that the tablet is sanitized before and after use and is not handed directly to anyone in adherence to social distancing guidelines.

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