Courtroom Presentations On The Record, by Ted Brooks
As appeared on The TechnoLawyer™ Community Newsletter
"Answers to Questions™ - Community members answer questions submitted by their peers"

TechnoLawyer member Jeffrey Lisson asks: "While I love technology, I'm scared of it in the courtroom. I'm scared of computers crashing -- whether it's Microsoft's "blue screen of death" or the laptop falling to the floor. I'm scared of jurors who think electronic presentation of documents are (1) too easily manipulated; or (2) too slick. And I'm scared of the price. Leave aside the cost of the laptop, scanner, color printer, software, etc., needed to make a good presentation. I'm scared of the cost of the projector and, to do it right, the "smartboard" for presentations. I'm scared of lumens v. price, of inches of display space v. digits to the left of the decimal point in my bank balance. What have my peers found to be the best bang for the buck in courtroom presentation devices? Though I recognize this will vary, what do jurors accept? How "slick" is "too slick?" And what have others found to be the costs of buying v. renting this equipment?" I began my career advising lawyers of all shapes & sizes on the benefits that automation could have in their firm. Whether it is Time & Expense Billing, Document Management or Workflow Processes, the need to streamline is in the now, not the tomorrow. While some of my prospective clients passionately bought into this "electronic" school of thought, others simply limped on down the road of "Big Chief Tablets" and "Scrap Paper Work flows." To say the least, it was and has continued to be, a most bittersweet pursuit to convince such intelligent and forceful leaders to buy into the simple premise of faster is better! It really is based on sound human logic. Would you rather walk to school both ways in the snow with no shoes on or being a person of sound body and mind, prefer a quick ride over on a school bus? The reality of the legal industry is, that while most attorneys, large and small, are more than willing to bill out at ever inflating service rates, these same attorneys balk at the idea of spending money to improve their own internal processes.

Answer: Allow me to respond by letting the testimony speak for itself. I was recently involved in a major jury trial, in which judge and jury alike were very much in tune with the technology. Rather than attempting to defend the cause, I will simply insert an excerpt from the judge's closing comments to the jury:

Western MacArthur Co. v. USF&G Final comments (emphasis added) from Hon. Bonnie Sabraw to the jury, 6/03/02:

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16 But I want you to know that you have had an
15 opportunity by being jurors on this case to participate in one
16 of the most well-prepared, if not the most well-prepared,
17 cases that I have seen, that you have been on the cutting edge
18 as far as technology in the courtroom, that you have had an
19 opportunity to see a case presented by people who clearly know
20 what they're doing and how to do it. And if you sat through
21 several jury trials, you would discover that oftentimes people
22 are very well prepared, sometimes they are not very well
23 prepared. But not -- you're not going to find another case,
24 if you do go sit on a jury somewhere else, I would imagine,
25 that would be as well prepared and tried as this one has been.
26 And so for those of you who have never had this
27 experience before, if you do find yourself back on a jury at
28 some time in the future, you might find that it's not tried in
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1 quite the same fashion. So you should, quite frankly, feel
2 fortunate that you were able to participate in this particular
3 jury trial.
4 We, as I said, have here some technology that even
5 this court -- that I have not used in my courtroom before.
6 And we all had some concern about how is that going to work,
7 and it worked very, very well. And we have some people here
8 who have been behind the scenes. I don't know if they're all
9 here at this point. But you didn't, other than having
10 "Mr. Brooks, would you do this" or "Roumiana, would you pull
11 up that," you didn't have an opportunity to hear from them or
12 meet them, but they truly participated in putting on this
13 trial. And I do want to introduce to you Mr. Ted Brooks who
14 is not here, probably went on to the next case.
28 THE COURT: All of these people made it happen as
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1 far as the technology is concerned, and we certainly don't
2 want to leave them out in terms of our appreciation.
3 I'm sure that when you came into this courtroom and
4 next door, when it first started, you had some idea that this
5 case might be a little different. Most cases don't go on for
6 several weeks. Most cases don't have this technology. Most
7 cases don't have as many attorneys sitting at the counsel
8 table and attorneys involved in the courtroom.
9 And, again, you have been fortunate to participate
10 in a case that is complex and required your full attention.
11 And that's something else I wanted to mention, because the
12 fact is we have observed, all of us, how attentive you've
13 been; how, when something comes up on the screen, you're all
14 tuned into it. You were truly participating in the case, not
15 just letting it sort of flow over you. And -- and that's a
16 very, very important part of -- of being jurors, and we all
17 really appreciate that.

Are you curious how the court views technology? How the jury views it? Take a look at an excerpt from the transcript of the Western MacArthur v. USF&G case.
See the Western MacArthur case technical stats.