An Attorney Couldn't Figure Out How To Remove The Cat Filter From His Zoom Court Hearing
"I'm not a cat!" the attorney reassured the judge.
A Texas attorney showed up to a video court hearing unable to remove the adorable, big-eyed kitten filter on his Zoom account, but he didn't let that stop him from his official business.
"I'm prepared to go forward with it," attorney Rod Ponton told the judge while explaining that he and his assistant were struggling to remove the filter.
On the Zoom court hearing, Ponton's face was obscured, but the cat's big eyes could be seen hilariously darting down on the screen.
The exchange happened Tuesday before the 394th Judicial District Court.
It was first spotted by attorney Kendyl Hanks and posted on Twitter. Many court Zoom hearings are not allowed to be recorded, but Hanks wrote she received permission to post it for educational purposes.
The court hearing appeared to open with two attorneys and a cat ready to proceed until Judge Roy Ferguson pointed out the issue in a deadpan voice.
"Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings," he said.
One of the attorneys quickly grabbed his glasses to get a better look while the cat then started to animate, its eyes and mouth moving as Ponton tried to explain the odd situation.
"I don't know how to remove it," Ponton said, as a virtual cat. "I have my assistant here. She's trying to but, I'm prepared to go forward with it."
"I'm not a cat," he said, as the kitten made a piteous face, and another one of the attorneys looked up and smirked at the situation.
"I can see that," Ferguson responded.
Ponton, an attorney for Presidio County, told BuzzFeed News he'd logged on for the hearing from a secretary's computer.
"When I logged in to Zoom for the hearing, to my great surprise I was a cat," he said.
Like other attorneys around the country, Ponton has had to use Zoom and other videoconferencing apps more often for court hearings during the pandemic and has had his share of mishaps, like not being able to sign in or his witnesses having trouble logging on.
He never showed up as a cat before, though.
He was more than willing to go on for the hearing as a cat, he said, but he got some help before things got started.
"The judge figured out how to take the filter off and remove it, and miraculously my less humorous, old guy image appeared during the hearing," he said.
On Twitter, Ferguson posted a clip of the exchange and pointed out that, although hilarious, the virtual hiccup shows how attorneys and legal professionals are facing unexpected troubles as they make sure the legal process carries on during the pandemic.
"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 tweeted. "Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!"
The ongoing pandemic has forced courts across the country to use videoconferencing as many in-person hearings have been canceled, and the switch to virtual courts has posed difficulties since the get-go.
Last year, a judge wrote to Florida attorneys reminding them to put on a shirt and to not appear in virtual court hearings in bed or poolside.
"These are not casual phone conversations," Judge Dennis Bailey rebuked attorneys back in April.
Judge Ferguson on Tuesday also suggested to attorneys that if their child used their computer before they did, to maybe turn off the filters before appearing in court.
Ponton said he was thankful that the other attorneys and the judge were able to keep their composure during the hearing. He's also fine that the hilarious video is now going viral online.
"If the country can pause for a moment and chuckle at a computer snafu at my expense, I'm glad," he said. "It's been a stressful time."