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CAN YOU PICK UP PAY-PER-VIEW ON THOSE THINGS? Visualize a nearly paperless courtroom — or at least one with a minimum amount of document shuffling. In San Francisco Superior Court’s complex litigation courtroom, Judge Richard Kramer is heading in that direction. Kramer recently had a new high-tech podium installed in Department 304 that does for lawyers in the courtroom what the computer has done for document preparation in their offices: improve speed and make for easy sharing. The judge said the podium increases efficiency by eliminating the need for the many document binders that usually accompany a case and that take up space and cause confusion. “Every time we have to pull out an exhibit, we have to go to the right binder,” Kramer said. “You can’t believe the time it takes to find the proper document.” With the new high-tech podium, plaintiff and defense attorneys, the judge and witness all have individual monitors. A large screen serves jurors. Lawyers need only to place their exhibit on a document projector and it appears on the screens of all parties. The witness also has the only touch screen that allows him or her to underline or otherwise modify the document right on the stand without changing the original. The lawyer can do the same at the document projector, employing an electronic pointer or zooming to a paragraph for emphasis. “You can then print out the document in an altered state,” the judge said. “You can also do the same thing with video tapes and CDs.” The technology also permits lawyers to plug in laptop computers to the connected monitors to present a Power Point or other software program, Kramer said. At the side of the bench are a large television monitor and a camera that connect to the system for teleconferencing, making the world a virtual courtroom. “We can do teleconferencing with lawyers who are elsewhere or have witnesses from London testify,” the judge said. Kramer said the high-tech setup cost $60,000 and was paid for with a state grant. “This courthouse was built with the anticipation of technological development,” he said. “So we have all the plug-ins and space to run wires that we need . . . [and] it’s all set up to grow.” And the benefits to lawyers, the judge said, go beyond just the convenience of instant courtroom communications. “Handling documents is one of the hardest things for lawyers to do,” he said. “Lawyers fear dropping them and looking less than professional.” San Francisco solo Martha Berman said, “It’s like have a recording studio in the courtroom.” — Dennis J. Opatrny JUST FORGET IT Saying it’s not worth the effort, a coalition of defense proponents has halted its attempt to try using voters to block new summary judgment legislation. The coalition — which consists of the Civil Justice Association of California and the California Chamber of Commerce — had filed papers with the Secretary of State showing it intended to gather signatures for a referendum after Gov. Gray Davis signed SB 688 at the beginning of September. When it becomes law Jan. 1, the new law will give a major time advantage on summary judgment motions to the plaintiffs bar and increase the statute of limitations in civil cases to two years. Had the coalition gathered 419,260 signatures by Dec. 9, that provision of the new law would have been blocked until the next scheduled election in March 2004. Then, voters would have decided whether it would be implemented. But the coalition reconsidered and won’t be making the signature drive after all. The papers were filed with the Secretary of State so the coalition didn’t lose its time advantage. “The whole reason why [we made] this last-minute push was because this bill was the product of last-minute shenanigans,” said John Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association. The plaintiffs bar has denied there were any shenanigans in Sacramento. — Jeff Chorney REPORT CARD TIME Attorneys in San Jose are being asked to air their compliments and complaints about Magistrate Judge Patricia Trumbull. The U.S. District Court magistrate’s eight-year term is up in April, and Court Clerk Richard Wieking has been soliciting comments from attorneys about the San Jose jurist so a seven-person committee can evaluate her performance for a reappointment to the position. “We seek any and all comments about a judge’s performances in the last eight years,” Wieking said. The court typically receives 50 to 60 letters, which are kept confidential. A panel of five attorneys and two members of the public review the comments and often interview the magistrate before making its recommendation. Wieking said during his 13 years as clerk, every magistrate has been reappointed. Trumbull was first appointed magistrate in 1987. She has served two terms. Before that, the Georgetown University School of Law graduate was a federal public defender from 1975 to 1986. She handles all pretrial criminal cases in Silicon Valley and also handles discovery matters. Comments about Trumbull should be sent to Wieking’s San Francisco office by Oct. 11. — Shannon Lafferty

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