TECHNOLOGY AND THE

COURTROOM OF THE FUTURE

(How to Avoid Being Roadkill on
the Information Superhighway)

1996 All Rights Reserved
Richard R. Orsinger


XXII. THE COURTROOM OF THE FUTURE The Eighth Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas is leading the way in the application of new technology to the appellate court system in Texas. Click here to visit the Eight Court of Appeals' Web site. The Texas Commission on Judicial Efficiency has finalized recommendations from its year-long Information Technology Task Force. Click here to see the Task Force Report and Recommendations. Some of the on-going activities around the country relating to technology in the trial and appellate courtrooms are discussed at the following WWW locations.

NN. Electronic Filing of Pleadings, Etc. The Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, the largest state circuit court system in the country, has adopted an automated system for electronically filing and managing the large number of pleadings in two insurance coverage cases. The Supreme Court of Illinois issued an administrative order permitting the Circuit Court of Cook County to implement this electronic filing system--the first time a state Supreme Court has issued such an order.

Attorneys in these cases can file and retrieve pleadings, motions, briefs and other documents through the on-line filing system. Once the documents are prepared, they are electronically transmitted, virtually eliminating the need for law firms to manually file documents with the circuit court.

Involved parties throughout the country can electronically file their documents using the electronic filing system. The documents are then secured and immediately become available in a view-only mode to persons authorized by the court. When a pleading, brief, etc. is entered into the electronic filing system, a notice can be transmitted to all parties who can then review these documents with a personal computer and modem from any location at any time. See http://www.lexis-nexis.com/lncc/about/newsrelease/nr105.html.

PP. National Center for State Courts The National Center for State Courts [NCSC] is testing and implementing new technologies in the courtroom. The NCSC is located in Williamsburg, Virginia. According to the NCSC WWW home page, "The National Center for State Courts is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement of justice. It was founded in 1971 at the urging of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. NCSC accomplishes its mission by providing leadership and service to the state courts." See http://www.ncsc.dni.us/about.htm.

2. Court Technology Conference. The National Center for State Courts is now planning the Fifth National Court Technology Conference, to be held on September 9-12, 1997, at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. The course staff is soliciting input to design the educational program, and by going to the WWW page you can fill out a questionnaire about possible topics, including:

Acquiring Technology

Advanced Communications

Artificial Intelligence/Expert Systems

Assessing Technology (Sizing Computer Needs;

Taking the Next Step Up)

Cameras in the Courtroom

Case Decisions Involving Science and Technology

Case Management Systems

Change Management

Changing Face of Courts and Their Clients

Clerk's Office of the Future

Client/Server Technology

Court Applications (Traffic, Criminal, Civil, Appel

late, Family, etc.)

Court/Community Intersections

Court Facilities Technology Standards

Court Ownership of Technology Projects

Court Reporting Technologies

Court Rules Related to Technology

Courts and the Internet

Criminal Justice Information Systems (CJIS)

Critical Factors in Technology Successes

Customer Service Delivery

Data Security, Protection and Integrity

Database Design

Developing Knowledge Bases for Judges

Ergonomics

Ethics in Computing (Societal and Technological

Concerns)

Evidence Technologies

Expectation Management

Funding Options and Budget Strategies

Graphics and Statistics

The High-Tech Courtroom

Imaging/Document Management

Implementation Issues

Intranet Communities

Introduction to Courts for the Technology

Professional

Introduction to the Internet

JEDDI/Electronic Filing and Data Exchange

Jury Systems

Kiosk Technology

Legal Research Systems

Long Range Planning for Technology

Mass Tort Cases and Automated Support

Multimedia

National Justice Information Resources

Networking

Office Automation

PC Technology

Preparing RFPs and RFIs

Project Management

Public Access Technologies

Reengineering with Technology

Security Technologies (Physical and Facility)

Selling Your Data

Smart Card Technology

Teambuilding for Technology Projects

Technology for Fines/Fees Collections

Telecommunications Options

Telephone Interpretation Services

Video Conferencing

Visioning the Future for Court Technology

Visual Display of Caseload Data

Voice Technologies

See http://www.ncsc.dni.us/ncsc/ctc5/survey.htm.

4. Perspectives on Automating Courts An article on Automating Court Systems located at the NCSC WWW site, contains the following points:

Courts create and process large amounts of electronic and hard-copy information--they are firmly entrenched in the information business. The ability of the computer to receive, process, store, retrieve, and distribute large volumes of information, combined with current telecommunications technologies, makes it an essential tool for the administration of justice.

In an era of spiraling personnel and operating expenses combined with increasing caseloads and demands on judicial resources, computer hardware and software are among the very few items for which unit costs have decreased. This is significant because providing trained court staff with appropriate computer applications enables them to work more efficiently and effectively.

The article goes on to discuss specific ways in which automated support systems assist the courts in doing business. These include: reduction of repetitive tasks (multiple outputs from single inputs); enhancement of data quality; increased information accessibility (computers allow many individuals to view the same information simultaneously); increased organizational integration (by allowing information to be shared between divisions and departments, the computer helps integrate the organizational components of the court); enhanced statistics and monitoring; increased effectiveness (information stored in a computer system can perform new functions not practical in a manual environment). See http://www.ncsc.dni.us/icm/acs/lec02.htm.

6. Publishing Opinions and Dockets The NCSC WWW site contains a paper on Legal Publishing on the Internet, by Henry H. Perritt, Jr., originally published in the 8 Court Technology Bulletin # 4 (July/August 1996), which says in part:

Recent developments in computer network technologies have the potential to revolutionize publishing of court opinions and dockets. The Internet's World Wide Web already has proven itself as a mechanism for electronic publishing. Electronic publishing reduces costs for both originators and consumers of information, allows many different entities working off the same basic content to produce specialized value-added features, and provides enormous flexibility to organize and present judicial information in ways that satisfy a variety of users.

Mr. Perritt goes on to say that "[t]o realize the potential of legal publishing, every level of the judiciary must adopt and vigorously honor two policies." The first is that the court must not create a monopoly over court information. The second is that the court must implement a "vendor-neutral citation system that is also technology-neutral."

On the monopoly issue, Perritt says:

[C]ourt systems must not set up public or private monopolies over their information resources, despite the strong temptation to do so. This temptation arises from the realization that providing public information in electronic formats can generate revenue and that a monopoly is more lucrative than competition in open markets.

Monopolies, however, are inconsistent with the traditional, and constitutionally based, open nature of judicial information resources. They force particular -- usually proprietary -- technologies on user communities. They inhibit the normally rapid progress of technological innovation and raise costs. They prevent the important benefits of diversity and competition in developing value-added features for public information.

Perrit goes on to say:

A judicial information dissemination policy should include the following elements:

No exclusive arrangement should be set up by any court

No restrictions on redissemination should be imposed

Prices should be based on avoidable costs of dissemination and should not include recovery of costs for general automation programs or for features useful for internal court activities

Electronic formats, such as word processing files and typesetting files, should be made available to any requester upon payment of the same cost-based fees

As soon as possible, the full text of judicial opinions should be made available on one or more servers connected to the World Wide Web

As resources permit, court dockets should be made available through servers connected to the Internet

On vendor-neutral and technology-neutral citation, Perritt says:

The second policy required for realizing the potential of legal publishing is a vendor-neutral citation system that is also technology-neutral. A variety of courts and bar groups are converging on a system that would facilitate internal references ("pinpoint" citation) by numbering the paragraphs of every opinion and either would provide a court-generated unique sequence number for every opinion or would rely on docket number and date to identify the particular document. Another desirable feature would be a standard method for identifying where opinions may be found. At least for the time being, the World Wide Web Universal Resource Locator ("URL") is a sound approach. The URL uniquely identifies a server on the Internet and necessary file and directory information to find information on a particular server.

Perritt concludes:

Following the lead of those courts and agencies that have embraced the Internet and the World Wide Web is the best way to increase the availability of the basic information of democracy and to reduce costs.

See http://www.ncsc.dni.us/ncsc/bulletin/v08n04.htm.

8. Court Technology in the 21st Century The NCSC Web site also has a piece on Court Technology in the 21st Century, taken from 8 Court Technology Bulletin, # 1 (January/February 1996), which contains quotations from six court technology experts for their vision of the future. For example, in response to the question: "What type of office automation technologies should courts select?" one of the participating experts said that courts should "invest in: 1) basic court case and cash management, 2) jury management, 3) basic word processing, 4) electronic research, 5) electronic document technology, and 6) training for managers and information staff." Another of the experts said "courts should select the tools that help their people do their work. Electronic mail and word processing are at the top of the list." See http://www.ncsc.dni.us/ncsc/bulletin/future/future.htm.

10. The Internet and Courts At the NCSC Web site there is an article on Information Superhighway Implementation Guidelines, by Thomas C. Carlson,Senior Technology Analyst for the National Center for State Courts. See http://www.ncsc.dni.us/ncsc/isig/guide.htm.

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Created October 8, 1996
Last updated October 8, 1996