A Courthouse Wish List

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Posted on: April 7th, 2015 by Angel Falconer

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Anyone who has provided assistance in trial presentation will identify with this. When I go to trial I bring with me everything you might expect: miscellaneous office supplies, several volumes of paper exhibits, a rolling bookcase, a laptop, small printer, second monitor, splitter, and if I’m sharing equipment with opposing counsel, a switch; and since most courtrooms were not built with any of this technology or the extra set of hands required to run all of it in mind, I find I usually also need a chair, small desk, projector, a table for my projector, sometimes my own projection screen, speakers, lots of cords, extensions for all those cords, power strips, my own personal hot spot, and plenty of duct tape. Most judges and court personnel are very friendly and accommodating, and I do my best to try to make all this extra gear fade into the background, but unfortunately, sometimes, despite my best efforts, cords that extend to the opposite side of the room get in the way, there is no ideal place to project evidence onto a screen without blinding someone, binders overwhelm witnesses and attorneys, and my presence behind counsel’s table, with all this equipment, does not go unnoticed. The good news is that any distraction it causes is temporary and is outweighed by the benefits of being able to publish and annotate key evidence for the jury and display dynamic demonstrative exhibits for them without fumbling around with large poster boards (not to mention the advantage of being able to edit them on the fly). However, hauling it through security (often up stairs in buildings that also weren’t built for ADA compliance), setting it up and breaking it all down (sometimes several times to make way for other court proceedings) can be time consuming and very difficult. It sure would be nice if courtrooms were designed to handle modern-day trial presentations, and as Multnomah County considers plans for the new courthouse, I hope that they’ll make a few improvements. Here are some suggestions that would help with some of the biggest obstacles:

  • Several power outlets located at counsel’s table;
  • Empty shelves behind counsel’s table and in the witness stand;
  • Speakers, large projection screen, and monitors that both sides can tie into and positioned so that everyone in the courtroom can see and hear the evidence;
  • Lighting designed for displaying electronic evidence;
  • Space behind counsel’s table for a paralegal or someone else hired to assist with trial presentation (maybe even a small desk or table?);
  • Internet access.

Obviously, the most important thing is that we build a secure courthouse that won’t crumble in an earthquake, but I think there’s also an opportunity to design it for the courtroom technology that attorneys and jurors have come to rely on and expect.