Courtroom Technology

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The result was a massive media spectacle. Some judges disapprove of cameras in the courtroom, suggesting that judges may end up playing up to the camera. It is generally considered a negative thing to have a great deal of media attention surrounding a trial as it may prejudice those involved. Different jurisdictions have different rules relating to this issue. Indeed, even some Supreme Court Justices have been somewhat schizophrenic on this issue. A few years ago, Justice Antonin Scalia, who has always taken a hard line against technology in the courtroom, expanded the notion of where technology was acceptable during a public speech he gave: During an April 7 speech by Scalia at a high school in Hattiesburg, a deputy federal marshal, Melanie Rube, demanded that AP reporter Denise Grones and Hattiesburg American reporter Antoinette Konz erase recordings of the justice’s remarks. The reporters had not been told before the speech that they could not use tape recorders. When Grones resisted, the marshal took the digital recorder out of her hands. The reporter then showed Rube how to erase the recording (AP). This issue caused a great deal of controversy at the time, and eventually led to an apology. Nevertheless, it has been reported that Justice Scalia is fond of the Ipad and uses it regularly. Clearly, the position of courts have everywhere have been evolving over the years. A timeline would suggest they have moved from conservative restriction to a more permissive, liberal approach. Standards vary from one jurisdiction and one judge to another. Indeed, other supreme court judges have been equally happy about the result of technology in the courtroom. One of the court’s recent appointees, Justice Kagan, has the following to say about the huge amount of legal pleadings that justices have to work their way through: At times there are as many as 50 friend-of-the-court briefs for one case. That is on top of the motions submitted directly by the named parties. So there is a lot of reading . . . And you know that’s a big part of the job and if a Kindle or an iPad can make it easier, that’s terrific (Beahm). We see that people intimately involved in the judicial system have embraced technology in some ways, while rejecting it in others. We need to find ways to effectively implement technology across the board so long as it is helpful. There are a number of other ways that technology can be useful to those involved in the legal profession. For example, electronic discovery has made life very difficult for many lawyers. The sheer quantity of electronic documents involved in some cases makes it impossible to physically go through every document or email by hand. Special software is required to deal with these large quantities. This software can search through keywords to find important phrases or names. It can dramatically shorten the amount of time required to find what a lawyer is looking for. Both courts and lawyers can work together as partners to develop and implement technologies in the courtroom. One system currently being used is called Digital Evidence Presentation System and allows for electronic, integrated presentation in the courtroom. As one expert says: Although attorneys have significant control over the systems in the courtroom, the court has instantaneous override capability. With the touch of a button, a judge can turn off every screen in the courtroom, including the screens in the jury box and the large screen displaying