Courtroom Technology : LUSENET : Court Ops Exchange : One Thread

As I look at the various courtroom technology systems, I wonder which ones are the most productive and effective. For those courts who use videoconferencing, how often do you use it? Has it become a part of your weekly work environment? What do you primarily use it for?

Are the courtroom presentation systems (e.g., ELMO) very useful? If so, how often are they used? Would it be best to buy a portable system and transfer it from courtroom to courtroom?

-- Geraldine Crockett (, October 05, 1999


Video Conferencing is used extensively in the Central District of California. I work in the Santa Ana Division and two of our judges use this feature regularly to hold court. They sit on the bench in Santa Ana while litigants and debtors appear in a courtroom in our Riverside Office. The technology has proven very helpful in allowing individuals to conveniently appear before our judges while reducing the inconvenience of commuting from office to office. The distance between the Santa Ana and Riverside Offices is about 35 miles, so the practicing attorneys are very grateful to have this opportunity as it saves them time and money. Additionally, we have judges in our Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley Offices that also use this feature for the purpose of hearing case matters.

We also use video conferencing to attend meetings and conduct training. Again, time is money and this technology has provided us with a means to accomplish our goals while minimizing the need to commute.

I have no experience to share with you in relation to the second part of your question related to courtroom presentation equipment.

-- Phyllis Presley (, October 05, 1999.

Texas Western is the largest georgraphical district in the country and we are heavy users of TVC. For example, one of our San Antonio judges is also assigned cases in our Midland division and conducts hearings via TVC. Our Chief Judge has an office in Waco and in Austin and is assigned cases in the Waco and El Paso divisions. If it is not convenient to travel to El Paso, he will conduct hearings via TVC, but prefers to travel to El Paso. Our monthly management meetings are conducted via TVC with San Antonio, Austin, Waco, El Paso and Midland. In addition, we conduct training, and hold meetings between myself and the DICs in each division. This has saved a huge travel expense. The initial reaction was that it was too impersonal and most people preferred the on-site interraction. Over time we have become accustomed to the distance and in addition to being cost effective, the managers are not burdened with travel to San Antonio. We now find ourselves competing to reserve the TVC.

We have an Elmo Graphics Camera, but it has not been used.

-- Peggy Craig (, October 05, 1999.

The Western District of Pennsylvania has one courtroom in Pittsburghthat is set up as our "Electronic Courtroom". We currently have videoconferencing equipment, a VCR, document camera, 10 13" monitors for use by the Judge, counsel, witness, court reporter, and courtroom deputy, two 32" monitors for the jurors, and a panaboard with a printer. In addition, in Pittsburgh we also have a panaboard and document camera on each floor, to be shared by the judges on those floors. We also have additional videoconferencing equipment which is mobile, and can be used in any courtroom, and the Judicial Conference Room. In addition, we have videoconferenceing equipment and document cameras in our two divisonal courthouses.

The judge who has the "Electronic Courtroom" uses the document cameras in just about every trial he has. He has also used the videoconferencing equipment on a few occasions. In fact, he used it for a witnesses in Sweeden. Everything went smoothly. Document cameras have also been used by other judges on occassions.

We have used the videoconferencing equipment in other areas such as, interviewing an applicant for employment (the applicant was in Pittsburgh with myself and one of my judges, and another judge was in one of our divisional courthouses). We have also made it available for the circuit judges use. They have used it several times for conferences, and arguments. Some of the arguments have been with the attorneys here in Pittsburgh, and the judges in Philadelphia, and one was with the attorneys in Philadelphia, one judge in Philadephia, one in Pittsburgh, and one in California. In addition, because of us having two judicial vacancies for over three years, we had 40 some cases assigned to judges from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. These judges used the videoconferencing equipment several times for arugments, status conferences, and pretrial conferences.

My suggestion is that if you can't afford to furnish each courtroom with a document camera, then you should make sure you buy somthing that is fairly mobile. The judge who has the "Electronic Courtroom" has made it available to any judge who want's to use it, however, it seems like no one wants to inconvenience him by asking him to move.

If anyone would like to discuss this further, fell free to call me at 412-208-7500.

-- James A. Drach (James, October 06, 1999.

Our videoconferencing equipment is located in our ADR Hearing Room and it is frequently used by court staff. We have a large geographical district with divisions in Ft. Myers, Jacksonville, Ocala, Orlando, and Tampa stretching over 300+ miles. We use videoteleconferencing for all district management meetings, our judges conduct meetings using this equipment, and it has cut down on travel costs. We also used the equipment when a jury had a question while deliberating and the visiting judge returned to his home office. We also have DOAR electronic courtroom equipment in each division. They refer to this equipment as mobile, but some components weight 300+ pounds. It is cumbersome and time-consuming to set this equipment up in a courtroom; however, the judges and attorneys like using it.

-- Laura Barsamian (, October 08, 1999.

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