Technology is transforming every aspect of life in the late 20th century - and that includes the courts. In 1997, the New York State court system continued to explore new uses of automation to improve our ability to manage and transmit information in the courtroom, between courts and to the public.Technology in the Courtroom
In November of last year, the Unified Court System unveiled Courtroom 2000, an experimental courtroom in the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Fully equipped with flat-screen monitors, laptop computers, an electronic "white board" and special video imaging equipment, this computer-integrated courtroom of the future electronically links all courtroom participants, expanding communications options and reducing the amount of time it takes to try a case.
In this futuristic courtroom, the judge, attorneys, clerical staff, witnesses and jury members each have personal monitors to follow the proceeding. Video monitors throughout the courtroom display documentary and graphic evidence. A white board (computerized blackboard) allows presentation of large drawings and writings that can be shown on video monitors or printed on a laser color printer. A touch screen monitor allows witnesses to illustrate evidence with a light pen. Computer generated animation can also be displayed on the monitors for the judge and jury. Eventually, exhibits will be retrieved instantaneously via a bar code filing system.
Court reporting in Courtroom 2000 is in real-time. The transcript immediately appears on monitors on the bench and at counsel's table and can be highlighted and searched for quick playback. Together, the electronic amenities in this courtroom greatly speed and enhance case presentation, cutting costs of complex trials by as much as 40 percent.
Other courtrooms are following suit. As part of our ongoing automation program, computer cabling has been installed in more than half of the courtrooms throughout the State - with "wired" benches, jury boxes, counsels' tables, court reporters' and clerks' areas. Upon completion of installation, courtroom access to legal research, electronic mail and case management systems will be introduced. Such automation also allows speedy in-court production of orders, so litigants can be handed papers as they leave the courtroom rather than directed to await processing by a back office unit
.Links Among the Courts
The cabling of courthouses not only allows greater efficiencies within individual courtrooms but also promotes better system-wide performance. Through the "CourtNet" program, over 3,500 court personne - soon to be 8,000 - have been linked together to form a Wide Area Information Network that provides instant communications between courthouses throughout the State. Electronic mail messages, judicial decisions, court forms, administrative memos - these are but a few of the materials that can be conveniently shared on the system.
A recent enhancement to the intranet system provides authorized staff with access to the Domestic Violence Registry, providing a quick and efficient means of tracking family offense orders of protection Statewide. New intranet applications are also being developed to enhance case management and improve intercourt coordination by providing access to information on cases pending, not only in the judge's court and county, but in other courts throughout the State. The posting of attorney registration records and fiduciary appointment lists is also being explored.
All of these applications help improve court efficiency and performance generally by expanding cost-effective access to information throughout the system.Links to the Public
DataCase, the court system's public on-line case information system, now makes court records from Supreme Court civil matters in 13 major counties easily accessible. Using a computer equipped with a modem, the user calls an 800 number and is connected to a copy of the court system's civil Supreme Court database. After making an inquiry, the information is displayed on the user's computer within seconds. No trip to the courthouse or lengthy telephone call to the clerk's office is required. For a small charge, the information is available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
The Internet has also provided a useful platform for disseminating information about the courts to a worldwide audience. With links to a number of other law-related sites and the home pages of individual judges and courts, the New York State Unified Court System website provides information ranging from Uncontested Matrimonial Forms to Rules of Court to the telephone numbers of courts, law enforcement offices and social service agencies across the State. E-mail inquiries may also be made through the site and are answered by the courts' library services staff within 48 hours. The site currently receives well over 100,000 visitors per month.
The Unified Court System continues to explore the many Internet avenues available and continues to increase the depth and breadth of information on its site. Please visit us at: http://ucs.ljx.com/.
For those who have questions and want to talk to a person, a telephone information service is also available at this number: 1-800-COURTNY.