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Broadcasting trials is no longer just the stuff of Court TV. Trials now also have a place on the Web. In January, the Superior Court in Anchorage, Alaska, broadcast live on the Web the transcript of a state redistricting trial. OK, it’s not a full-motion video feed, but it’s a start. A court reporter recorded the transcript real-time — as the words were uttered — and then the text was streamed simultaneously to the Internet at www.webscriptlive.com. (Archives of the 15 days of trial are still available on the site.) The idea of putting the trial on the Web was originally proposed by the court reporter covering the trial. Superior Court Judge Mark Rindner agreed. Technology was a way to bring the trial to people who couldn’t see it live. “It was a case that was important to the state. It had the potential for a lot of following” in the population, he says. The case turned on a controversial plan to redesign voting districts in Alaska. Nine plaintiffs, including Republican state representatives and some of the municipalities affected by the plan, sued the state redistricting board over the plan, charging that it improperly designed voting districts. (Judge Rindner upheld most of the redistricting plan. His decision is under appeal. Oral arguments are set for mid-March.) The plan had generated a great deal of hubbub in Alaska. It was a frequent topic in the local newspapers and at community meetings. The redistricting board set up a Web site with information. “The public got this taste for having quick access to what was going on in redistricting,” says Philip Volland, a partner at Anchorage’s Volland & Taylor who represented the board. The live Webcast of the trial let Alaskans burrowed up in, say, Fairbanks, peer into the courtroom activities in Anchorage. Because the site did not display sound or complicated graphics, viewers did not need a high-speed Internet connection to stay tuned. The site averaged about 30 visitors at any time during the trial, according to Third Sector Technologies Inc., the Fairbanks, Alaska, company that set up the Webcasting. Third Sector provided this Webcast for free. It typically charges $75 an hour. (The company also Webcasts tribal meetings.) Michael White, lead plaintiffs’ counsel and a partner in the Anchorage office of Washington, D.C.’s Patton Boggs, says the live trial was also helpful for experts in other states, and clients in the state legislature in Juneau who followed the case. White also could go back to the office and watch the trial unfold. There were a few glitches. Some small mistakes in the text appeared online. A proofreader would clear them up for the official transcript. Both the lawyers and the judge had the transcript pour into their laptops. This can happen in any courtroom where there is real-time reporting and the right wires are in place. “From a lawyer’s perspective it was a slick deal,” says Volland. After opposing counsel made an objection, for example, Volland could see his question pop up on his laptop. He could then rephrase his question. Volland loaded the transcript into Summation, a trial software package. Volland and his team made notes for future examinations. They coded certain recurring themes and flagged important testimony. This was important in preparing the closing statement, says Volland. For his part, Rindner says he would peer down at the transcript from time to time, especially when ruling on an objection. But he preferred to keep his eyes on the witnesses and the lawyers, he says.

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