A question that constantly comes to mind when the legal community discusses the paperless law office is what happens when a case goes to trial? Jurors like to touch evidence – to feel it. Let’s not forget the best evidence rule either. That poses a problem for lawyers like myself who prefer to run through the clouds instead of the forest. Y’all get the metaphor? Clouds – cloud computing; trees – paper. Never mind…
I envision a future where the rules of evidence will quit fearing a scanner and modify the best evidence rule to comply with the times. I envision a time when projectors replace a podium, and WIFI and iPads replace the legal pad. We’re pretty close to this future. I won a civil trial last week with the help of my iPad and a projector. But what about the juror? I think that there’s a solution available now, but we’re a little ways out from its affordability.
In the jury room of the future I see a table much like what’s in every jury room in America. Except this tabletop is a computer touchscreen, and it’s made by Microsoft. The hardware and the software is referred to as Microsoft Surface, and it’s available now on many desktop computers running Windows 7. As a matter of fact I recently discovered by accident that it’s available from the factory on my Gateway desktop! While inexpensive in small screens, a tabletop setup would cost several thousands of dollars.
So what’s my point? Imagine a future where all digital evidence admitted is loaded into the tabletop and made available to the jurors. The learning curve, while intuitive, would have to be addressed, but imagine the possibilities! Instead of passing around pictures and documents while others wait for their turn, several jurors could touch the screen at the same time and review, arrange, zoom in, and manipulate the evidence in various sundry ways. Discussions could be articulated about the evidence, and it could be used by each juror to make their point. Imagine Mr. Fonda with this technology? Imagine the time and error saved by not having to store evidence through a trial and subsequent appeal? I can think of a few court reporters who would be pleased. Obviously we have a little ways to go, but I feel like this is a natural progression for the legal system. I’m reminded of the Six Million Dollar Man – “We can rebuild the courts. We have the technology!”