The Basics for Solid Courtroom Presentations Are Few and Inexpensive
Posted Oct 9, 2004 2:17 AM CDT
By Jill Schachner Chanen
It isn’t that Steve Buquicchio fears using technology in court. Rather, he fears what not using it may be doing to his cases.
Buquicchio has a niche practice representing receivers in securities fraud actions. His work often requires him to untangle vast webs of fraud by sorting through the layers of businesses and individuals accused of participating in complicated Ponzi schemes.
With that work comes a blizzard of documents. According to Buquicchio, each case can be so complicated to unravel that it is not unusual for him to wind up with hundreds of thousands of pieces of paper in a small case, millions in a larger one.
Still, Buquicchio has managed just fine using good, old-fashioned document management systems: binders and indexes. In court he also has relied on the tried and true: creating visuals from word processing programs, enlarging them and pasting them onto presentation boards.
But Buquicchio knows that incorporating technology into his work would make it more manageable and cause his in-court presentations to pop.
Take, for example, a recent case in which he was trying to prove the participation of hundreds of companies in a fraud. So much information wound up squeezed onto presentation boards that Buquicchio feared it was difficult for the judge to follow. “There were so many arrows pointing up and down and across,” he says. “If you were not real familiar with the scheme, it was hard to follow the track of the principals--where the money came in and went out.”
He wished he had the tools to call up evidence easily from a computer and project all or parts of it on-screen for judge and jury to see. But wired courtrooms still are few and far between. Buquicchio worries that any technology he uses in court may be cumbersome and, ultimately, distracting to judges and juries.
So, he asks, what sort of technology is out there for courtroom presentations that is not only affordable but portable and easy-to-use?
Life Audit expert Michael Hahn says Buquicchio is in luck. Technology not only has become cheaper to acquire but more streamlined and simpler to use. According to Hahn, Buquicchio needs three basic pieces of equipment: a laptop, a projector and a screen.
First, a laptop. Buquicchio should get as much memory, or RAM, as possible--up to 1 GB (gigabyte) is now available--and with as large a hard drive as possible, says Hahn. Both are prerequisites for storing and playing back video evidence.
Equally important when purchasing a laptop is screen resolution quality. According to Hahn, resolution is described in terms of numbers or letters. Look for an XGA (extended graphics array) of 1024 x 768, he says. It is the current standard and should remain so for three more years.
For added zing, Hahn suggests supplementing the laptop purchase with a wireless mouse and keyboard. These devices could help Buquicchio if he is presenting from a personal computer or larger laptop and finds himself without enough space for the mouse and keyboard. More importantly, the remote devices allow the user to annotate or highlight or spotlight information on the screen from up to 100 feet away from the computer. Hahn particularly likes remote mouses and keyboards that operate through radio waves and not infrared technology. “The radio frequency eliminates the line of sight problems that you have with infrared.”
The second key component for Buquicchio is a projector. Prices have dropped dramatically in the last few years, which means buyers can get significantly more brightness for their money.
Brightness is measured in lumens. Hahn says Buquicchio should buy the highest lumen count suitable for the task. For projection of documents in court, 2,000 to 2,500 lumens should be more than adequate.
Pricing also will vary according to the weight of the projector. But Hahn wants Buquicchio to consider lumen count over portability.
The third basic is the screen. For courtrooms, Hahn recommends portable, lightweight models of 80 inches to 100 inches in diameter. Many models are available that are easy to set up and easily stored by collapsing into a large tube.
If space is tight, if portability is an issue or if the presentation will be before a smaller audience (like an arbitration) Hahn suggests purchasing a tabletop screen. Some are now on the market that sit atop a table and unfold to about 36 inches in length. Once Buquicchio has the required hardware, Hahn also wants him to invest in two key software systems: a document management system and a presentation system.
Document management software will allow Buquicchio greater flexibility with the reams of paper a typical case generates, including having the all-important capability of calling up any document scanned in by a key word. Presentation software will allow him to easily project documents in court and offers other innovative functions including the ability to run video with synchronized transcripts.
Michael Hahn is a Phoenix-based specialist in trial-support technology. He has successfully assisted in obtaining jury verdicts across the country in cases ranging from the criminal prosecution of the Oklahoma City bomber to civil cases brought by the city of Phoenix.
Position: Attorney, Stenger & Stenger in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Practice area: Litigation, concentrating in receiverships and creditors’ rights
Goal: Learning what kind of technology every litigator should have
Life Audit Hot Tip: Toys Beyond the Basics
For technophiles who want to do more in the courtroom, Life Audit technology expert Michael Hahn offers a few goodies sure to make the litigator the envy of all his or her colleagues.
Tablet notebooks: If the tapping of a keyboard is too distracting in the courtroom or a client meeting, consider a tablet. In addition to offering basic laptop computing, a tablet allows the user to write on the screen with a stylus, much like writing directly on a legal pad. Users can create new handwritten documents, which can be converted into text, or edit existing ones. Many tablets now have projection capabilities.
Smart boards: Let your inner John Madden out with the newest generation of smart boards. These interactive white boards are now small enough to fit on top of a laptop, effectively turning it into a tablet PC. Smart boards allow the user to control the computer through a touch screen. Highlight with your finger or take notes on the screen with a stylus. The boards also offer projection capabilities.
Laptop: Increase your budget to buy one with enough RAM and hard drive space to make full use of document management software and presentation software.
Projector: A projector’s brightness is measured in lumens and the more lumens the better. But don’t go overboard. Standard courtroom presentations require no more than 2,500 lumens.
Screen: Get one that is lightweight, easy to set up and portable. Make sure it is large enough for all jurors to see.
Software: Document management software and presentation software are a must.
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