By Stacie Guevara
SACRAMENTO, CA – When Jerica Arroyo appeared in Sacramento County Superior Court, Dept. 84 on Monday morning via Zoom, it looked as though she was tuning in from between the aisles of a grocery store.
Judge Steven M. Gevercer let her into the Zoom meeting, seeing the side of her face very close to her smartphone camera and her display name simply as “iPhone.”
Once Judge Gevercer asked her name and pulled up her case, he went about business as usual, as defendants have recently appeared in court via Zoom through their smartphones and sometimes in public places. But Arroyo was walking in a place that seemed to be a grocery store, which is nothing short of unusual.
Judge Gevercer said Arroyo was charged with an infraction and a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor was for driving with a suspended license. Judge Gevercer noted her license was suspended because of a DUI and also for driving without evidence of financial responsibility.
Judge Gevercer asked her, “Can you afford to hire your own counsel at this time?”
With a nervous laugh, Arroyo answered, “Currently, no. I’ve been homeless. I’m literally trying to find some good Wi-Fi area, so I don’t lose this call.”
As that explained why it looked like she was in a grocery store setting, Judge Gevercer asked if she would like for him to appoint the public defendant to represent her, to which she agreed.
Judge Gevercer then gave her a phone number to text her information to, including her name, address and phone number.
Worried, Arroyo reminded them that she didn’t have an address, and was told to only send her name and phone number along with her XREF number, which Judge Gevercer gave her. An XREF number is a number the court system uses to make sure all of one defendant’s cases are grouped under one name.
The public defender’s office, which was planning to represent her, then spoke up and informed Arroyo that the phone number given to her by Judge Gevercer was not a direct line to communicate with him—it was only for her to text her contact information.
Judge Gevercer told Arroyo she would either appear in-person or via Zoom at her next court date, which will be Oct. 25 at 9:30 a.m. in Dept. 84.