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With the creation and expansion of new legal rights has come the need for courts that can manage vast amounts of information. The national and state legislatures have created new types of civil claims that have opened the floodgates in our state and federal courts. And civil claims and legal theories have become increasingly more complex. As our world becomes more complicated, so, too, does a judge’s or jury’s job in trying to make sense of intricate factual or legal issues. But the very technology some of us fear may hold the key to more fair and efficient justice. Complex civil litigation can be puzzling. It often raises difficult legal and factual issues and usually involves many parties. And, it almost always involves a lot of money. The benefits of technology in the courtroom far outweigh any fears many lawyers and judges still harbor. The notion of a paperless courtroom is no longer just an idea — it is a reality. CHASING PAPER It is estimated that a large pharmaceutical corporation defending against liabilities incurred in its manufacturing of an allegedly harmful product will produce approximately three million pages of documents in response to the plaintiff’s initial wave of discovery. Further, one cannot underestimate the discovery of documents originating from third-party sources such as the FDA and its European counterparts, prescribing doctors, treating doctors, pharmacies, health care organizations, health care insurers and benefit payers, advertising firms, medical societies and organizations, lobbying firms, medical writers, consultants and contract research organizations. Add to this the mountain of paper generated as a result of depositions, pleadings, motions, orders, memos from liaison counsel, the court and the Special Masters, and one begins to get a real sense of the labyrinth that is complex litigation. Technology now exists, however, that can serve documents on the court as well as other counsel with the click of a button. Various companies have developed electronic filing technology that allows the court or counsel to send the document to hundreds of recipients by simply posting the document or documents on a specially created Web site, which is managed by the private company. It works like this: Liaison counsel for the plaintiffs need to serve the deposition testimony of a key witness on all plaintiffs’ counsel. Liaison counsel would either e-mail, fax or overnight mail the deposition testimony to the company’s electronic depository — a secure site on the Internet that is password protected. Liaison counsel would then designate which parties would receive the document and an e-mail would then be sent to those parties that were designated to receive the document. The party that receives the notification e-mail would then go and retrieve that document from the Web site that was set up for the specific litigation. The party would enter their password (provided to them by the company) on the Web site and they could either download the document to disk, CD-ROM or print out a hard copy. The technology described above has numerous benefits. First, it is incredibly cost-effective. As opposed to having to physically mail a cumbersome document to as many as fifty other counsel, an attorney can now post that document for as little as ten dollars on the Web site created for the litigation. Second, the judge and her law clerk can now cut and paste from electronically stored briefs, depositions and memos in order to create more effective bench memos and more succinct opinions as well as court orders. Third, should both plaintiff and defense counsel so choose, some or all of the information posted on the Web page can be made available to the public. SHARING INFORMATION BETWEEN FEDERAL AND STATE The effective and efficient adjudication of mass tort cases depends on the cooperation of state trial judges and federal multidistrict transferee judges. The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation was created in order to allow a panel of judges, appointed by the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, to aggregate all similarly situated federal cases into one transferee court for pretrial discovery. The original Manual for Complex Litigation — a product of the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation — provided for rule-like “waves” of discovery that set up a standardized management process. More recently, however, federal judges have begun aggregating cases in order to pursue overall settlement or initiate a conclusive trial. This, in turn, has led to greater pre-trial cooperation and the need for technology that allows these courts to share information. Technology now exists that allows a state trial judge to sit in her courtroom on one side of the country and take part in a R. 402 hearing taking place in a federal court on the other side of the country. The technology works like this: Using either a standard phone line or an ISDN line, the state trial judge dials into a “bridge” which has been established by the court conducting the R. 402 hearing. The equipment used to dial into the bridge is a television equipped with video-conferencing hardware. Essentially, the video-conferencing hardware resembles a large cable box that is usually mounted underneath the television. Mounted on top of the television is a camera and a microphone. In order to dial the call, the equipment comes with a large remote that contains a key pad similar to that on a telephone. Using the remote control, one dials into the bridge and, when the other end picks up, a picture of both you and those on the other end appears on the television — a feature known as picture-in-picture. With the remote control, one can change camera angles in the “far end” courtroom, adjust the volume of the speaker, but most important, engage in a dialogue with those in the far end courtroom. This technology is allowing judges and attorneys from all over the country to engage in one hearing instead of hundreds of hearings. It saves time and money, and it provides litigants with the expeditious resolution of their claims. COURT-CREATED WEB SITES Technology breeds transparency. The greater access litigants have to information, the closer we come to truly fair and efficient justice. Court-created Web sites that are run and managed by the courts themselves, unlike the electronic filing technology discussed above that is managed by a private company, can provide counsel and litigants with information ranging from recent court rulings to hyperlinks. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas, is an excellent example of a court that is employing state-of-the-art technology to streamline appellate advocacy and create a more transparent court room. The 8th Court of Appeals Web site, which can be accessed at www.8thcoa.courts.state.tx.us/, includes everything from a disposition list of recently decided cases to the Internet broadcast of oral arguments. The Web site includes hyperlinks to the local rules of court, Texas Statutes On-line, a link to the Texas Legislature and a link to the Texas Constitution. Using free, downloadable software called RealPlayer, one can actually listen in on oral arguments, via the Internet, while those arguments are being made before the court. Similar to the 8th U.S. Circuit, the New Jersey Superior Court Mass Tort Section has developed its own Web site. With the help of the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Special Standing Masters and my law clerk, we are in the process of transforming complex litigation in New Jersey into paperless litigation. The Web page, which is located at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/ mass-tort/index.htm, includes links to each of the various mass torts currently before the court, (e.g., the diet drug litigation, the tobacco litigation, the Rezulin litigation, the latex litigation and the Propulsid litigation.) Within each of the mass tort sections, one can access recent decisions by the court, case management recommendations issued by the Special Standing Masters and case management orders. An attorney or pro se litigant can find links to MDL Web pages, local court rules and, in the future, motion lists giving the date and time a motion is to be heard. Attorneys will no longer have to call the court or the judge’s law clerk to determine when and if oral argument is scheduled on a particular motion. Instead, the attorney will log on, visit the court’s Web page and view a list of all of the motions to be heard on a particular day. TECHNOLOGY AND THE TRIAL The effective presentation of evidence wins trials. Evidence is meaningless if it cannot be communicated effectively to the fact-finder. Photographs, diagrams, charts and models have been employed for years in order to more effectively tell a story to a jury. But more recently, we have seen day-in-the-life video-tapes and computer animated graphics used to recreate accident scenes. The use of this computer technology is significant for the following reasons: � Vast quantities of video and/or computer animation can be stored and organized on disk or CD; � Visual data, scientific studies have shown, is more likely to be remembered; and; � Retrieving information on disk or CD-ROM is often quicker than digging through a “banker’s box”; A VIRTUAL COURTROOM Real-time transcription is the use of computer-aided transcription equipment to obtain a useful transcript of testimony as that testimony is given. Real-time transcription provides near instantaneous transcripts both in traditional written form and in electronic form. The advantages are numerous. First, the transcript is computer-searchable. In other words, should the judge or counsel need to find specific language from the transcript, it is a matter of simply typing that language into a laptop and hitting the “find” key. Second, disputes as to prior testimony can be resolved easily and immediately. Third, both the judge and the counsel have an immediate record from which to plan further witness examination or jury instructions. Finally, the transcripts can be distributed electronically, cutting down on the cost of hard copy production as well as the time it can sometimes take in order to produce a hard copy of a transcript. Video trial records are both inexpensive and more comprehensive than the traditional written record. Moreover, the impact of a video-taped trial could reshape our notions of the appellate record and the burden of proof on appeal. Similar to a video-taped deposition, a video-recorded trial can pick up on body movements, facial gestures and vocal intonations. These gestures may prove essential to understanding the impact of information that would not be reflected on a written transcript. Nonverbal communication by both the judge and counsel in the future may in fact be used by the appellate court alongside the written transcript in order to come to a better understanding of the trial proceeding. In the diet drug litigation, nearly all of the depositions of defendant’s employees and officers, government agency employees and officials and third-party witnesses and experts were recorded on some form of video. In the Propulsid litigation, it is anticipated that several synchronized recorders will be used to simultaneously record what was once a single and stationary “head shot” of the witness. By having more than one camera recording the witness at one time, it will allow a video technician to later go back and create a video with multiple angles. The hope is that viewer fatigue and the boredom often expressed by jurors after they have watched a videotaped deposition will be reduced. There is technology that also allows the videotaped deposition to be synched to the real-time deposition transcripts. The real-time deposition transcripts can then be edited for trial presentation or use in cross-examination. HIGH TECHNOLOGY COURTROOM A high technology courtroom is one that has a technology-based evidence presentation, a computer-based research and information retrieval system from both the bench and counsel tables, as well as a high-technology court record system that is capable of remote witness testimony via two-way video-conferencing. Such a system will consist of at least a television-based document camera and a display system able to display not only what is placed under the camera, but also computer output. The information to be presented on the camera may come from one or more installed desktop units or from a laptop computer supplied by counsel and connected temporarily to the display system. The display system may consist of televisions, computer monitors or large front or rear projection systems. � The creation of a high-technology courtroom requires: � Courtroom-specific design; � Technology acquisition; � Installation; � Training and operation, and; � Maintenance. The number of lawsuits filed to redress injuries caused by a single product manufactured and used by individuals all over the country continues to grow. Yet, the tools we once used to adjudicate a case have become less effective. Complex cases challenge our state and federal courts because they present complicated factual and legal issues, change notions of due process and give a new definition to advocacy. But technological advances in the courtroom are offering new and unique solutions to the management of information. As judges and lawyers, we need to be concerned with things not as they are, but with things as they might and ought to be. Technology in the courtroom brings us one step closer to the effective and efficient adjudication of complex cases. Marina Corodemus is a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Middlesex County.

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