Technology in the Courtroom

We’re pleased to share this guest post from Patrick Michael, a partner practicing in the Louisville office of Dinsmore & Stohl LLP.[1] Patrick writes about the Jefferson Courtroom Upgrade Project’s success in bringing modern tech amenities to a traditional courtroom.

 

A question to all the attorneys reading this, how many of you present your client’s cases using the following trial presentation techniques:

  1. Writing important information on a large pad attached to an easel;
  2. Writing on a white board;
  3. Displaying important documents or photographs mounted on 2 foot by 3 foot foam core boards;
  4. Publishing documents and handing them to the jurors to pass among themselves; or
  5. Conducting impeachment by reading the original testimony from the transcript.

These are tried and true evidence presentation techniques.  Unfortunately, these techniques are no longer effective in communicating with the people that populate our juries.  The jurors of today are communicating with smart phones, texting and sending e-mails.  They take pictures and videos with their phones, posting them on Facebook and YouTube, and communicate their moment-to-moment thoughts and reactions on Twitter.

This new generation of jurors is accustomed to the instantaneous delivery of information using the latest technology.  As lawyers, we need to use the technology to which this group is accustomed if we expect to effectively communicate with them.  The purpose of this article is to introduce you to this technology and to demonstrate how to use it for the presentation of evidence at trial.

Recent university studies have shown that students’ test scores improve by 14 – 15%, or one letter grade, when the course is taught with two or three different, simultaneous presentations compared with single screen content.  These studies were the driving force behind the Jefferson Courtroom Upgrade Project LLC’s (“JCUP”) decision to install independent, multi-screen displays in the Jefferson Circuit Courtrooms.[2]

The new AV System has multiple inputs that can work with three output screens.   This gives lawyers the capability to use virtually any device with a video or audio signal output.  They can display different information on each of the two projection screens and one 55” portable flat-screen monitor.  For example, a time line may be displayed on one screen and a document referred to on the time line may be displayed on the other screen.  The technology includes a touch-screen-telestrator which allows the users to annotate and highlight information displayed on any screen.  It also includes an independent audio system for playing audio files.

Courtroom2

The System includes two VGA and two HDMI inputs at each counsel table.  Lawyers have the option of using a combination of any two inputs at the same time: two VGA; two HDMI; or one VGA and one HDMI.  In addition, each party has a separate VGA or HDMI input that may be used by support staff.  This combination gives each lawyer the option of inputting audio and video signals from three different sources.  For example, one computer can play a video deposition from its DVD drive, a second displays a timeline that the witness is describing, and a third computer outputs a document referred to by the witness that is tied to a date on the timeline.

Courtroom1

Selecting the input devices that will be displayed is easy thanks to a specially designed user interface that runs on an Apple iPad.  In step one, the user first selects the input device – a computer, iPad, tablet, phone, DVD player, etc. – which is plugged into an input connector at the counsel table or at the support position.  The second step is selecting the output – Projector No. 1, Projector No. 2 or the 55” Monitor.  The iPad interface also allows the user to determine the source of the audio output and select the screen to use the telestrator capabilities to annotate.

ipad-interface2

The innovative part of this AV System is that it allows the lawyer to capture any of the three video or audio signals for the official court “Record” – one signal at a time.  In addition, the System has the capability to print the image displayed on any one of the three screens.

A lawyer may also connect Apple TV to the System, and communicate with it using a wireless router.  The combination of these two devices allows the user to connect wirelessly to Apple TV with an iPad or MacBook Pro using its “AirPlay” mirroring function.  This feature makes it possible for a lawyer to control output of audio or video content from an iPad while moving around the courtroom.

JCUP installed a prototype system in Division 8 of the Jefferson Circuit Court.  A recent murder trial demonstrated the flexibility of the pilot system.  The prosecution used a document camera to display a diagram of the crime scene on one screen.  Photographs of the physical evidence identified on the diagram were shown on the second screen from a laptop.  The defense utilized the touch-screen technology with a witness illustrating the distances between pieces of evidence on the crime scene photographs.  The System allowed the diagrams and photographs displayed on the projection screens to be captured in the court “Record.”

The AV System is built around a digital switching system called Enova developed by AMX.  The switch, communication controllers and telestrator equipment reside in an equipment rack that is installed in a closet behind each courtroom.  The beauty of the system is that it can be operated by lawyers without the support of a technical staff.  The user only needs a laptop and either a VGA or HDMI cable to connect to the System.  JCUP has created a training program and user manual that provides step-by-step instructions to make sure lawyers are comfortable using the new AV System.  The training program has been approved for 1.0 hour of CLE credit.  JCUP is also creating a web-based series of training videos that will be available through the Louisville Bar Association.

The AV system is ground breaking, but it isn’t the only inventive part of this project.  The fundraising model developed by the JCUP utilized contributions by the local trial bar, putting the financial responsibility on the end users.  This also allowed for direct feedback from the lawyers on their technology needs in the design phase of the project. JCUP developed the System in conjunction with its AV partner, Trinity Video Communications.  The cost to install the digital AV System ranges from $50,000 – $75,000 per courtroom depending upon the individual system design, and it takes approximately a week to install the equipment.  JCUP hopes to have all 9 courtrooms upgraded by February 2014.  JCUP is a not-for-profit limited liability corporation owned by the Louisville Bar Association.

 


[1] bio-patrick-michaelPatrick Michael is a partner practicing in the Louisville office of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. He joined Dinsmore & Shohl as a partner in September 2009 when his former firm, Woodward, Hobson & Fulton, LLP, merged with Dinsmore. Patrick focuses his practice primarily in business litigation, commercial transactions and work-outs, non-competition disputes, and professional malpractice defense.

Patrick began his legal career as a trial attorney in 1987. While learning the art of trial practice and honing his skill in the courtroom, he began to focus his practice in the area of commercial litigation, including contract and business disputes and litigation involving the Uniform Commercial Code. In addition, Patrick counsels clients in the areas of vendor and customer contracts, risk analysis and dispute resolution.

Patrick’s experience enables him to guide clients through an array of matters, including emergency hearings for restraining orders in the defense of or prosecution of non-competition agreements. Understanding that these hearings are typically time-sensitive and urgent matters, Patrick works quickly on behalf of his clients, both in the preparation and delivery of documents, as well as building a strategy for the hearing that help his clients meet their objectives. He has worked with a number of high-level executives in various industries, including a national carpet cleaning franchisor, a national pharmacy company and even the inventor of the aluminum baseball bat, placing a premium on learning each client’s industry in order to tailor his approach to fit their needs. His extensive experience in preparing cases for emergency hearings enables him to provide clients with a trusted ally as they move forward.

Patrick also provides compliance review for a number of small to medium-sized companies, reviewing and developing their document retention and destruction policies. He works closely with in-house counsel and the technical staff to evaluate and develop new business strategies to streamline the storage and retrieval process, providing a proactive approach to compliance with evolving local, state and federal laws and regulations.

Patrick was chair of the ALFA International Business Litigation Practice Group for more than six years. During that time, he was responsible for the development and management of three international client seminars which were attended by more than 400 participants. He has first-chaired and managed significant business litigation matters involving multi-million dollar dispute. He also has managed dealership work-outs for auto manufacturing finance companies involving multi-million dollar recoveries.

Patrick has continued his study of the art of trial practice. He attended the National Institute of Trial Advocacy’s National Session, the Institute’s flagship training program designed to polish trial advocacy skills of experienced practitioners. He also attended the NITA Master Advocates program and the NITA Teacher Training Program and subsequently, has taught trial practice at NITA Regional Programs.

Prior to law school, Patrick began his professional life by preparing for a career in the theatre. He studied in the professional acting studio at the University of Illinois for six years. In addition, he studied directing with one of the country’s foremost directing teachers. He received degrees in acting and directing, both from the University of Illinois. Patrick worked at Actors Theatre of Louisville for eight years. During this time, he served as the theatre’s general manager and was responsible for its fiscal and organizational management. In addition, he periodically directed showcase productions. Patrick continues to maintain his many contacts in the professional theatre and works as a free-lance director.

[2] See Using Multi-Screen Systems in Teaching College Mathematics Based on the Cognitive Theory, Department of Industrial Management, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, March 4, 2008.  See also Analysis of Information Retention Scores, University of North Texas, December 2002, available from Trizenter, LLC, 4350 Brownsboro Road, Suite 110, Louisville, KY 40207; 502-394-0996; www.trizenter.com.


  • Stuart Adams

    Nice article and helpful pictures.