Courts Go Online: No Pants Required
by Loren Ginsburg, Marshall Snider
The County Court for the City and County of Denver, always on the cutting edge of new procedures and technologies, has made a momentous announcement. The County Court is introducing a pilot project to conduct "Virtual Trials" where all parties participate online. Personal appearances in court will no longer be necessary.
Riding on the heels of its successful satellite traffic court offices, and the computerization of all of the courtrooms, the court has recently inked an agreement with COURT JESTER, Inc., purveyors of hardware and software for the legal industry. This agreement makes Denver the official beta testing site for the latest tool in the ongoing battle against court delays and high legal fees.
Two courtrooms, one Civil and one General Sessions, will be the locations for this revolutionary idea in judicial resolution of disputes. The program is called Automatic Processor for Results In Litigation, ver. 1.00, or APRIL 1.00 for short. This complete system builds on the growth of the Internet, e-commerce, and the shrinking size and price for computer hardware. Denver will be the first city in the country to have virtual courtrooms. Yes, that's right, VIRTUAL courtrooms.
A rudimentary system has been tried by another company in Ohio (www.municipalcourt.org). That system only allows observers to watch proceedings live on the Internet. As reported in the February 2000 ABA Journal, other jurisdictions are broadcasting on a limited basis. Denver's system will be the first totally online courtroom.
As described by company president, George L. Tirebyter, a trial attorney, "the beauty of this new system is that you can litigate from the privacy of your office. You can even go to trial from your own home, if that is where you do your best work. No more cruising around the Golden Triangle for hours searching for a parking place that doesn't have a loft attached to it. No more hot August days of sitting in a crowded courtroom with the great unwashed masses."
The system will involve all litigants, counsel and court personnel being connected via the Net. Each involved person will have a split screen showing all of the other parties via streaming real time video.
Don't have shoes to match your suit? No problem. Don't wear any. Leave the camera zoomed in on your face. You don't even need pants. Just make sure your camera does an Ed Sullivan on your Elvis.
Instead of continuously asking a court reporter to read back that last question, instantaneous transcription will be occurring in the background. (This guarantees that the county court system will never have to hire court reporters.)
Exhibits will be scanned in, and available as pictures and/or word processable text. Imagine being able to highlight exactly what you want the witness to read, without asking the court's permission to approach. Zoom in. Zoom out. Show that forged signature as big as life.
As an added plus, as soon as the District Court goes online, you can obtain immediate appellate decisions, from the District Court Judge of your choice. Decisions are just an e-mail away, with no pesky deadlines and multiple copies.
Jurors will still be required to appear for jury duty, but the courtrooms will only need to be big enough for a jury box and the system server. Eventually it is expected to be acceptable for jurors to appear by the Internet, thereby decreasing the problem of no shows. Security will become less of an issue, as those in custody will no longer be transported. They will just get booted up right in their cell.
After the system has been tested for six months, there are more advances planned. Still in the developmental stage is an Artificial Intelligence program designed to render decisions. The parties will do their virtual trial, and the system will compare the evidence, research the law, and render a decision based on logic, rather than emotion. Another idea is instantaneous judicial decisions. Now that the Colorado State Court Administrator has contracted for electronic filing, it will be possible for judicial decisions to be e-mailed after the last pleading is filed. No more drawn out discovery disputes or continued trial dates. The "race to the courthouse" will take on a whole new meaning.