A virtual courtroom hearing came to an abrupt paws in southwest Texas on Tuesday when an attorney inadvertently appeared on screen as a computer-filter-generated cat.
The mundane civil forfeiture hearing took a hilarious turn when Presidio County Attorney Rod Ponton arrived in Zoom court in the form of a fluffy white and brown kitten.
For about 30 somewhat awkward, but mostly funny seconds, Ponton struggled to remove the filter.
With other lawyers on screen wryly smiling, 394th Judicial District Court Judge Roy Ferguson tried to walk Ponton through keystrokes. Ponton said he was ready to proceed even in his feline form.
"I'm prepared to go forward with it. I'm here live, I'm not a cat," Ponton said.
Ferguson had a laugh over the kitten court catastrophe and praised all lawyers involved.
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"If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom Video Options to be sure filters are off," Ferguson tweeted. "This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th."
Ponton said he was forced to use his secretary's computer, because the office was in the midst of a move.
"If I could make everyone laugh at my expense I'm happy to do that," Ponton told NBC News hours after the hearing. "It's an example of what can happen in our computer connected world."
The judge said the lawyers are like millions of other Americans, trying to make the best of unconventional work settings caused by the ongoing coronavirus 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!"