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Using Multimedia in Legal Proceedings

Practical Considerations

The practical considerations of the using technology in the courtroom cannot be overlooked. We have transitioned into an information technology society in a relatively short period of time, compared to similar transitions to an agricultural and manufacturing economy. There has been and will continue to be change upheavals for the judge, lawyer and trier of fact. Listen and be sensitive to the practical influences upon these parties - it may have a significant impact upon your case.

Convincing the Judge

Cables - with the development of the under carpet CAT5 cabling system, technology can be integrated into existing courtrooms while maintaining its appearance. The renovation can be accomplished by just changing the carpet. Millwork is designed to hide unsightly wires. This is a major improvement from a few years ago where the cable was thick and you had to build conduits and floor boxes. For further information, contact Doar (www.doar.com).

It is imperative that you disclose to the court within a reasonable time before the proceedings of your intention to use technology in the legal proceeding. Many judges have expressed major displeasure with using technology, even the addition of a single extension cord, because it changes the appearance of their courtroom. Obtaining the court’s consent to use technology can be done informally or formally. Many practitioners routinely file “notices” to the court that they wish to use certain technology in the courtroom. Others raise the issue in pretrial conferences. Whether one wishes to bring a single laptop computer or a complete “paperless” presentation system, one must still obtain the consent of the court.

Many courts are adopting presentation technology in the courtroom. The driving force behind this adoption is the timesaving economics, and increased juror’s understanding using courtroom technology. Once court administrators and judges realize the cost savings of conducting trials in a paperless environment and the increased understanding of the jury by using technology, implementation in the courtroom should accelerate. In Judge Roger Strand’s federal district court in Phoenix, Arizona (www.uscourts.gov/phoenix/index.html), the practitioner only has to bring to court his factual and legal materials in an electronic format. This Computer Integrated Courtroom (CIC) is completely equipped with computers, CD-ROM’s, and monitors. This enables the practitioner to access and use his case and legal materials and to present his case in a “paperless” format without the need to provide his own equipment.

However, since we do not all practice exclusively in Judge Strand’s court, to convince the judge to use technology will partially depend upon the intended use of the technology equipment. The use of the equipment can range from having a laptop or desktop computer to a complete trial presentation system with monitors for the jury, judge, and so on. Some approaches to requesting the court to permit the technology presentation of your case are:

  • Disclose early on to the court your desire to use a technology system in the courtroom. Set forth in a diagram what the requested technology is and the reasons for placement of certain equipment in the courtroom;
  • Contact other judges ahead of time who are supportive of the technology to provide as references for your judge; Contact opposing counsel and try to convince him to share the cost and not to oppose the request to automate the litigation;
  • Presentation podiums are now available that have a central control panel giving the judge total control over all facets of the court, from climate control to evidence control. The judge can control publication of evidence to the jury with the flip of a switch, see Doar ( www.doar.com );
  • Many judges are innovators of new ideas and techniques. Often, they are called upon to speak at local or national gatherings on their experiences concerning the use of multimedia in the courtroom and “paperless trials”. If you provide them a positive experience of using technology, then they will become advocates of the technology;
  • Provide supportive evidence that the use of technology will save actual court time and increase the trier of fact’s understanding of the issues in the case.

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