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Today’s reliable video conferencing is increasingly a basic tool for legal professionals, as we move from ISDN technology to Internet-based conferencing. Every United States Attorney’s Office has a system. Many courts are now using videoconferencing for both administrative and trial use; a number of circuit courts of appeal have long used the technology for remote appearances. Use in law firms is increasing, and William & Mary Law School uses videoconferencing for law student placement. With concerns about terrorism, SARS and air travel, videoconferencing is fast becoming a viable alternative to traditional “face-to-face” meetings and events. The potential impact of this technology for trials can be seen via two Courtroom 21 experimental “Laboratory Trial” cases. In April, 2001, we experimented with the use of remote testimony in a terrorist case (following the Michigan Cyber Court concept). A British barrister appeared live at the prosecution’s counsel table, via videoconferencing from the U.K., to examine an accomplice witness who appeared life-size in a plasma screen behind our witness stand, live from Canberra. Image looked at image in what to the participants in the courtroom well was a remarkable substitute for physical presence. AL-QAIDA STRIKE In a second experiment, we conducted a mock prosecution of a U.S. defendant charged with having helped finance an al-Qaida strike. The prosecution sought the testimony of an Australian lawyer, who was asked to incriminate his client, and claimed the attorney-client privilege in Australia, the U.K. (where he was a solicitor and had conferred with the Australian client) and the United States. As the Honorable James Spencer, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, presided, the prosecution first turned to the right to address the Queensland, Australia court, visible on a large screen to the right of Spencer. Having argued Australian law to the Australian court and having obtained a favorable ruling, counsel then turned to the left and argued British law to the British judge in the 40-inch plasma screen to the other side of Spencer. Successful, she then argued the Federal Rules of Evidence to the American court. Thus, three courts in three nations met concurrently via videoconferencing to consider the same application. In today’s multinational world brought closer together not only by terrorism but also by increasingly close commercial bonds, we all can expect more and more to turn to video conferencing in all its forms. Fredric Lederer is chancellor professor of law and director, Courtroom 21, at William & Mary Law School, based in Williamsburg, Va.

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