Texas trial footage goes viral following Zoom filter fiasco

The tech glitch is a strong reminder for lawyers to check their video settings before attending a virtual hearing

Texas trial footage goes viral following Zoom filter fiasco

Footage of a hearing taking place at the 394th Judicial District Court in Texas went viral after an attorney showed up with the face of a kitten thanks to a Zoom filter.

Attorney Rod Ponton, who handles civil matters and misdemeanour prosecutions as a legal representative of Presidio County, was appearing in a status hearing related to a civil forfeiture issue, according to the American Bar Association Journal. When he signed into the proceeding, which was taking place on Zoom, he wasn’t quite himself, as Judge Roy Ferguson pointed out.

“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video setting,” Ferguson said in the much-shared video.

Ponton, who was sporting the visage of a cute, wide-eyed grey kitten, quickly responded that his assistant was trying to fix the mishap, and that in the meantime, he was “prepared to move forward.”

“I’m here live. I’m not a cat,” he assured the judge.

“Yeah … I can see that,” said Ferguson. The judge, who maintained a calm demeanour throughout the brief exchange, proceeded to try and instruct Ponton on how to remove the filter.

Ponton eventually shed his feline façade after 30 seconds.

It turned out that the attorney was attending the hearing on his secretary’s computer while operating from a remote office. The secretary, Ponton told the Journal, “was mortified when it happened because she wants to make sure her boss is professional.”

“It’s just one of those computer things that happened, and we fixed it,” he said. “I had no clue it would be a topic on the Twitterverse for a day.”

Since the 42-second clip was posted on the court’s YouTube channel, it has recorded over 6 million hits. Ferguson has since referenced the incident on Twitter, capitalising on the fiasco’s popularity to send a reminder to the legal industry.

“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,” he wrote.

Ferguson also praised Ponton’s gracious handling of his newfound internet fame.

“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,” Ferguson said in a follow-up tweet. “Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!”

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