Tech Fixes In The Courtroom

One of my biggest fears is having something to go wrong in the courtroom.  I have learned that it doesn’t matter how much you practice in the office or conference that something is bound to go wrong when you set up in the courtroom.  Some times there is simply nothing you can do but here are a few fixes to keep in mind whih could help you in these situations:

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LAPTOP DISPLAY IS NOT SHOWING ON SCREEN

Once you have connected your laptop to the court’s presentation system, you see the display on your laptop but not on the courtroom screen(s).

Possible solutions:

  • Reboot the laptop.
  • Check the cable.  On more than one occasion I have discovered that one of the pins were bent or missing in the VGA cable.
  • Adjust the resolution.  Ask the Court IT staff what the resolution is on their projector/flat screen.
  • Toggle your display by pressing Windows Key + P.  This will show you the settings to duplicate or extend your display.
  • Make sure the Court’s equipment is set on the correct input for your laptop.

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FEEDBACK WHEN CONNECTING AUDIO CABLE

“What’s that noise?”

Court Reporters are very sensitive to sounds and understandably so since they have to transcribe what they hear during court.

Possible solutions:

  • Change cables
  • Use 2-prong adapter on power cord

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POWERPOINT SLIDES WON’T FIT ON COURT DISPLAYS

Everything else is working fine but then someone tries to do a PowerPoint presentation for closing and they discover that the photos they put in their slides are not fitting on the screen.

Possible solutions:

  • Check the resolution.  Make sure it matches the Court’s projector or flat screen.
  • Check the cable.  Once again it could be a problem with a pin that is missing or bent on the VGA cable.
  • Make sure the user is in slide show mode

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CAN’T HEAR AUDIO BEING PLAYED ON LAPTOP

You have a recording to play and you can’t hear the audio.  No need to panic, try these first:

  • Check the volume on your laptop.
  • Make sure the audio cable is plugged into the correct jack.  In most cases it will be the headphone jack on your laptop.
  • Check the volume on the Court’s system

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LAPTOP DISPLAY ON COURT’S SCREEN CONSTANTLY GOES OUT

You’ve got your laptop connected to the Court’s projector or flat screen but you experience intermittent outages.  Most laptops today are eliminating the VGA connection in favor of HDMI or Display Port (don’t get me started on the Display Port) but some laptops still have the VGA option but have eliminated the ability to screw in the cable.

  • Check to see that the VGA is securely connected to your laptop.   I recently attached velcro to both the cable and under the laptop to ensure the VGA would stay connected.
  • If the above doesn’t work, check the other end of the connection as well as the path the cable is taking to/from the laptop.  Believe it or not, sometimes someone on the legal team will put a box or something on the cable that could interfere.

There are other unique things that come up but these are some of the common issues I have experienced.  I don’t have to tell you how nerve wrecking it can be to experience problems in the courtroom.  It’s always good practice to get into the courtroom the day before your trial to set up everything and test it.  There have been many times that I had in my mind how something was going to work but when I actually got into the courtroom to test it out I discovered issues that I had time to resolve before trial.   One thing you can never assume is the availability of electrical outlets.  Yes even in 2018 some courtrooms are limited on availability to plug in our electronic devices.  Once I had to go to Lowe’s and purchase some extension cords and plugged under the judge’s bench so that we could have power to our devices.

Always test your equipment but always be ready in case something goes wrong.  The best way to be ready is to have spare cables, connectors and equipment in case you need to switch out on the fly.

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Common Litigation Support Issues

Digital-Age-1024x710I have been in the Litigation Support career field for the past 21 years and I have seen just about every type of technology issue and glitch possible with new ones occasionally popping up to test my abilities.  Litigation Technology has changed during this time and the problems I encounter change with the technology.  In this blog, I have come up with a few tips and tricks I have learned along the way:

  • “How do I play this?”
    • This is the most asked question I get now from the legal staff in regards to audio/video they receive.  When I first started, you had tapes.  With tapes, you knew what they were and how to play them.  Today, you get a disc or flash drive with audio and video files on them.  Usually, these files are not in a standard format so I have to figure out how to use third-party players to play them or download the correct (and approved) CODECs for the staff to review the media.  One of my constant “sermons” to the attorneys is to bring their attention to thinking of how they expect a jury to review the audio/video.  Many times they don’t think of this until the jury is deliberating and have to play the files.
  • Encrypting Discovery
    • This is a painful but necessary process for us now.  We have to be cautious of sending data out and safeguards to protect the information from accidentally getting in the wrong hands.  I have to tell folks not to include the password ON the media they send it because that kinda defeats the whole purpose in securing the data.  It is also a challenge when our encryption software doesn’t work for opposing counsel when they have McIntosh systems or some other issues which block their access to the data due to the encryption software we use.   We have to navigate around this very carefully.
  • Sound Problems In The Courtroom
    • Routinely I have paralegals reporting that they are experiencing feedback or other sound issues in the courtroom when connecting their laptops.  Court reporters will be the first ones to fuss about this problem and rightly so.  Any audio feedback inhibits their ability to do their jobs in capturing every word said in court.  Two things usually resolve this problem.  First, simply plug in the audio cable into the headphone jack of the laptop even if you aren’t using sound.  Leaving the audio cable loose or hanging free will cause some interference.   Second, plug an AC adapter to the power cord on the laptop.  In most cases, the power is too close to the audio ports and using the adapter adjusts the power so that it muffles the interference.
  • Processing Data
    • It’s always good to be on the front end when attorneys request data.  Doing so can save time and complications by ensuring you get the data in the correct format or simply know what’s coming so you can be prepared.   I have had people hand me SATA hard drives and ask me to review it.   Seriously?  A SATA hard drive?  I might as well be the Great Carnac.  It is essential that we enforce our Electronic Discovery policy so that we can avoid receiving a data dump.  E-Discovery is no longer something new and foreign anymore.  I am quite strict on people following our E-Discovery specs.  When I receive something, if it doesn’t meet our specs I return it.  You can only do this if you have a policy in place and communicate this to the staff.
  • “I have a hearing in 15-minutes….”
    • Yeah, this is something I don’t think we will ever avoid.  We have courtrooms that have absolutely no presentation technology so at times I will get this phone call from an attorney needing to play audio or video at a hearing.  I always wonder how these hearings pop up at the last minute but, as we all know, it does no good to complain about it.  We have to act and get it done.  It is very important to anticipate these situations and have equipment ready to roll.  In fact, I have a “mobility cart” nearby that is wired with a short-throw project and speakers that can be rolled to any courtroom at a moment’s notice.  Every office has those “last-minute” people so it’s good to know that when the time comes, you can respond.
  • Be open to new technology
    • If you are like me, you support people who can be resist to new technology.   We can’t be like that.  We must be willing to try new things that will make the work of our legal staff more efficient.  When we find something that works, we must sell it and be excited about it.  Recently, I was able to get an iPAD with TrialDirector and introduced it to the staff.  People have been resistant but once one or two paralegals have used it in court, they always want to use it now.

Okay, this isn’t an exhaustive list but a few things that are common and some things I have learned to deal with them.   Litigation Technology is constantly changing.  Advancements continue to be made so we have to stay on the leading edge of the technology to ensure our attorneys and legal support staff have the tools that will make them successful.  That’s also a huge thing to keep in mind.  I have met others who want to create some kind of competition with other offices or agencies.  A good litigation support or litigation technology specialist will keep their focus on the people they support and not get involved in some sort of technology arms race with other litigation support professionals.  We have to get the job done for the people who are in the front lines in our office.

One saying that I think is a good one to live by as a litigation support professional is:  “Failure to plan is planning to fail.”