Technology in the Courtroom

by Annette Burns on November 20, 2011

I don’t claim to be an expert on in-courtroom technology.   But a case I’m involved with now in private arbitration has opened my eyes to the ease of dealing with digital exhibits.

One of the most frustration things to me, while in the courtroom, is dealing with exhibits.  While trying to keep one’s mind of the line of questioning, listen for nuances in testimony, take directions from the judge, or just follow what’s going on, the lawyer also has to be moving around the courtroom with paper exhibits.  We are constantly moving the paper in order to show the right exhibit to the witness at the right time, find the exhibit in the stack prepared by the clerk, and point out the right page or portion of the exhibit to the witness, for reference.   Not easy tasks, while also trying to phrase a question in the best possible way.    I tell myself this is why most of my transcripts make me sound like I just woke up from a long sleep.

Electronic exhibits are a breeze.    Because this is private arbitration, we didn’t have to have our exhibits marked by the clerk days ahead of time.  This enhanced the ability of  both lawyers to pare the exhibits down to just what we need.    While we may have exchanged (digitally) an enormous number of pages of bank statements, in trial we are marking only the statement pages that we actually need and that are referred to in testimony.   A hard copy is marked (for our record, of course), but the witness sees the exhibit on a monitor, as does the judge and all other spectators.     Flipping between exhibits on the monitor is easy, so less time is wasted while someone paws through a pile of paper exhibits looking for the right one.     As the witness testifies, pertinent portions of the document are easily highlighted on the screen.   The exchange of exhibits was done through CD-ROM, thumb drives, and even Google Docs.

Yes, we still have piles of paper in the trial room, and I’m still taking trial notes on a yellow legal pad, by hand.     I decided not to use the iPad for this trial, to keep myself from getting too distracted by the technology.  Next time, the iPad will be there, and my trial notes will be more organized.

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