Today I’m excited to announce the beginning of a recurring series of commentaries and interviews of prominent attorneys and cases in the Southeast. “Law in Dixie” is my attempt to spotlight the great legal minds of our region both past and present. Check back each week for a new interview or commentary!
This week I had the privilege of chatting with Jamie Moncus, an Alabama personal injury lawyer after my own heart. Jamie recently made a few headlinesby using an iPad to present evidence in a wrongful death case, and apparently doing it well, as the jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict to the tune of $37.5 million! So how did he pull it off? Read our back and forth below:
1) What was the deciding factor on using the IPad at trial?
At first it was probably the intrigue of it and the desire to try something new and innovative. As we more seriously considered it and what was best for the case, I was drawn mostly to the simplicity of the iPad as a presentation device. I am always looking to streamline trial presentation and I think, in general, the simpler the better.
No one can dispute that the iPad can be as simple a presentation device as one could hope for, yet it maintains the power to really put on a show for the jury.
2) Was the decision an 11th hour call, or did you research the viability of the device for this use?
I think I decided about a week out from the trial date that I would at least explore the option of using the iPad. Of course, at that time, I had no idea what apps were available or how they worked. After downloading a few apps with potential promise, I spent several hours testing them with a projector and some of the actual documents we would use at trial just as if we were in the courtroom.
3) How long before you felt comfortable in your decision to use the iPad?
I did fairly extensive practice in the sense of making sure I understood how the apps worked, how the documents were uploaded, and exploring the functionality of the individual apps. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of testing the app and the documents together with all of the actual hardware (screen, projector, cables, audio) to be used at trial. It took me probably only a couple of hours after set up of all the equipment and playing around with the documents on the app to feel comfortable going forward in the courtroom. Anyone with TrialDirector experience would find this intuitive and seamless.
Jamie makes an excellent point here. Even though the iPad plays well with both VGA and HDMI projectors, certain apps interact with the display media differently. In my use of the iPad at trial, I noticed that certain apps would cause the projector to go blank for a second as I switched between programs. It is imperative that you become familiar with your particular setup before you get caught by surprise in front of twelve spectators!
4) Were there any hiccups along the way?
I felt like I was pretty well prepared for last minute problems by loading all of the trial documents on three separate apps, two for back-up purposes. But, we really didn’t have any problems that necessitated the use of our back-up plan. A warning though—you cannot display documents and charge your iPad at the same time so get a full charge at night and a partial charge during the lunch hour
This is a great idea. With the computing power available, the disk space, and the recent iOS ability to multitask, there is no reason why you can’t have your trial documents pre-loaded into several different apps. On a side-note, Apple has recently released a new HDMI video adapter for the iPad. It in fact does allow you to hook up to an HD capable projector, and simultaneously charge the device via an adjacent 30 pin dock connector.
5) How did the Court, OC, and the jury react to the presentation?
I honestly didn’t notice or detect any reaction to this form of presentation as opposed to the many others we’ve used over the years. I’m sure I could have done a better job of asking these questions, but I think this is part of the appeal of using an iPad—it is unobtrusive and doesn’t distract from the substance of the presentation itself.
This us perhaps the key point I took from this interview. The iPad has become the tablet of choice for the masses, as such it’s presence in the courtroom is not novel given the user’s proficiency in using it. It truly is a huge leap forward from a team of staff running laptops having to choreograph with the lead attorney in front of the jury. With this setup the attorney is not dependent on a colleague who might pull up the wrong document, or get confused as to the lead attorney’s instructions. Couple that with a long VGA/HDMI cable and you can waltz almost untethered from the witness stand to the jury box to the bench!
6) What would you do differently, and will this be a recurring theme in your future trials?
I’ve just finished a three week airplane crash trial where we did not use an iPad, but also had tens of thousands of pages of documents. I’d like to get back to an iPad trial soon, but I still think it has to be the right case and the right fit under the circumstances. I’ll try two to three cases the last half of this year, but I’m not convinced I can effectively use an iPad in any of them. As far as doing something differently, I can’t wait until we have the ability to wirelessly transmit the documents without being restricted by the projector cord from the dock connector, but I have no idea when, or if, that day will come.
In conclusion, the iPad, like any device is a tool. it has a time and place. I try to use my iPad in court whenever possible, but there are times when it isn’t appropriate. Sometimes the case is too simple, there’s not enough evidence to warrant a projector, or the judge is not amenable to me setting up a projector. Mr. Moncus’ recent win should solidify the iPad’s place as a viable tool in the courtroom.
If you have a moment be sure to read about Jamie’s verdict as well as his firm bio. It was a fascinating read to see how he was able to meander his difficult set of facts through what appeared unrelated laws, to reach the jury. I’d like to personally thank Jamie for taking time out of his obviously very busy schedule to share his recent successes with the iPad with my readers.