A 2000 Article on Courtroom Technology Looks Ahead to Today
A while back, Fredric I. Lederer, the director of William & Mary's Courtroom 21 Project on the Courtroom of the 21st Century published an article, The Effect Of Courtroom Technologies On And In Appellate Proceedings And Courtrooms, 2 J. App. Prac. & Process 251 (2000), available at: https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1229&context=facpubs. Lederer makes some points which are still relevant today.
Despite the fact that audio and video recordings can provide a more accurate record of a proceedings, courts still insist on turning recordings into text transcripts. This is in part because the text can be browsed quickly and immediately opened to any necessary point.
While attorneys rely on realtime transcripts during depositions, a multi-media court record that synchs a trial transcript to audio and video is unusual. Lederer anticipates that digitized video would become easier to transfer in the future.
A 'multi-media' court record might allow an appellate court to expand the scope of judicial review, making de novo review easier.
While electronic briefs can allow one to look up caselaw more quickly and permit attorneys to visualize their arguments more easily, Lederer correctly worried about the obsolescence of electronic media, in an era in which briefs were routinely submitted and stored on CD-ROMs.
A hyperlinked brief can allow an attorney to avoid wasting time when he or she needs to look up an authority during oral argument.
The Courtroom 21 set up by William & Mary included a 'Litigator's Podium', which anticipated Nomad carts.
In this Age of Zoom, we can appreciate the prescience of Lederer in wondering, "The judges may reside and have their offices far from the appellate hearing. Indeed, many intermediate appellate courts ride circuit in an effort to compensate for distance. Why can we not use video conferencing both for oral argument and judicial conference?" Id. at 269. Interestingly, Lederer recommends using life-size images of remote participants.
The article concludes with this observation: "Indeed, it would not be difficult to move the entire appellate argument to the World Wide Web. Each participant would see and hear all the others as appropriate. The personnel of the Courtroom 21 Project believe that this could be done today. Accordingly, in one sense modern courtroom technology can change the appellate courtroom-it can eliminate it wholesale." Id. at 273. Has this come to pass?