SACRAMENTO, California -- When a California doctor joined a Zoom hearing on Thursday to contest a traffic violation, the court clerk quickly noticed that he was wearing scrubs, gloves, a mask and a surgical cap.
“It kind of looks like you’re in an operating room right now,” the Sacramento Superior Court clerk said, in a live-streamed video of the hearing recorded by the Sacramento Bee.
“I am, sir,” Scott Green, a plastic surgeon, confirmed. “Yes, I’m in an operating room right now. I’m available for trial. Go right ahead.”
As they waited for the judge to arrive for a hearing that was live-streamed on YouTube under state laws, Green could be seen handling surgical tools. At one point, an apparently unconscious patient on a table briefly appeared in the frame.
When Sacramento Superior Court Commissioner Gary Link finally popped onto the Zoom, he appeared disturbed by Green’s video feed.
“So unless I’m mistaken, I’m seeing a defendant that’s in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing services to a patient. Is that correct, Mr. Green?” Link asked.
When Green confirmed he was operating on a patient, the judge immediately delayed the trial. “I do not feel comfortable for the welfare of a patient, if you’re in the process of operating, that I would put on a trial,” he said.
As the legal system adjusts to remote broadcasts during the pandemic, the multitasking surgeon is just the latest incident of Zooming gone wrong. Last month, a Texas lawyer accidentally signed into a hearing with a filter that made him appear as a fluffy and wide-eyed kitten. Another Sacramento defendant logged on while getting his hair cut at a barber shop. And last May, a toilet flush interrupted arguments during a U.S. Supreme Court hearing.
Other courtroom Zoom mishaps have not been as comical. Defendants and lawyers have shown up for hearings in too-casual clothes, without shirts and even naked. Hackers have disrupted court proceedings with pornographic videos and music. In one case, a woman was attacked by her romantic partner during a virtual hearing.
In the latest case in Sacramento, Green at first argued he was fit to continue the trial after Link raised concerns about the safety of the patient undergoing surgery in the background.
Green reassured the judge that another surgeon was assisting him, “so I can stand here and allow them to do the surgery also,” he said.
“Not at all,” Link quickly responded. “I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
The judge then asked a court clerk to check the calendar for a new date to reschedule the hearing.
“I’m going to come up with a different date, when you’re not actively involved or participating and attending to the needs of a patient,” Links said, shaking his head.
As a clerk checked a calendar for a new date, Green said he was sorry.
“I apologize, Your Honor, to the court,” Green said. “Sometimes, surgery doesn’t always go as . . . efficiently as we’d hope.”
Link interrupted the doctor, saying, “It happens. We want to keep people healthy, we want to keep them alive. That’s important.”
Green didn’t immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post late on Sunday. The Medical Board of California said it is investigating the incident.
“The Medical Board of California expects physicians to follow the standard of care when treating their patients,” spokesman Carlos Villatoro said in a statement shared with The Post. “The Board is aware of this incident and will be looking into it, as it does with all complaints it receives.”