June 15, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Viral ‘cat lawyer’ explains what happened in Zoom hearing

A Texas lawyer wasn’t kitten around Tuesday when he accidentally appeared as a cat during a virtual court hearing.

Fur real.

Rod Ponton, an attorney for Presidio County, Texas, went viral over the digital mishap in which he endeared himself to cat lovers and the legal community alike by struggling to remove an emotive feline filter representing him on the screen.

“Mr. Ponton, I believe you have a filter turned on in the video settings,” said Judge Roy Ferguson, who was presiding over the hearing.

Ponton’s big kitten eyes spoke volumes as he struggled to end the awkward cat-astrophe. Another lawyer on the call leaned in to assess the situation, which is being likened to the viral blunders that dogged BBC Dad and Knife Kid. Another man on the video call seemed to watch the issue play out respectfully.

“I don’t know how to remove it. I’ve got my assistant here and she’s trying to,” Ponton pleaded. “I’m prepared to go forward with it. … I’m here live. I’m not a cat.”

“I can see that,” said Ferguson and proceeded to walk him through the filter removal.

Apparently Ponton had been using his secretary’s computer and she was “mortified” by the mistake, he told the New York Times. It took only about a minute to clip the kitty, and the hearing went on as scheduled.

But Ponton didn’t know he’d gone viral because he isn’t on Twitter. It was Ferguson who shared the hilarious clip on the 394th District Court’s YouTube page — with a word of caution after the hearing.

“IMPORTANT ZOOM TIP,” Ferguson tweeted. “If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom Video Options to be sure filters are off. This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th (sound on). #lawtwitter #OhNo @zoom_us”

The Texas judge said that moments like this are “a by-product of the legal profession’s dedication to ensuring that the justice system continues to function” amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced so many in-person activities online and put people’s home lives on display.

“Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!” Ferguson added. (He also gave media outlets permission to use the clip as long as it isn’t used to mock the lawyers but instead “exemplify the legal community’s dedication to the cause of justice.”)

“If I can make the country chuckle for a moment in these difficult times they’re going through, I’m happy to let them do that at my expense,” Ponton told the New York Times.

He said the hearing was for a case involving a man trying to exit the U.S. with contraband and contraband cash.