New Courthouse Is State-of-the-Art
BY ANITA WOMACK-WEIDNER
Increased space and natural light have boosted the morale of employees, litigants and lawyers, but the incorporation of the latest technology at 330 Jay Street has set a new standard for New York’s courthouses.
Architects, engineers and the technology staff made sure the latest technology was used to enhance everything from what goes on inside the courtroom to how prisoners are brought in and out of the facility. For example: each morning, a computer system in upstate New York downloads calendar data into a server, and the information — including indictment/docket number, parties’ names, room and case status — automatically comes up on a rolling liquid crystal display (LCD) calendar, similar to those in airports, in each courthouse lobby. These LCD calendars are also outside each courtroom. The system was developed in eight months by Peter Pelc and other Supreme Court technology staff. They originally planned on using an outside contractor, but after being quoted a million dollar fee they decided to do the work themselves.
Every courtroom is fully equipped for electronic presentation of evidence, with a retractable screen and media podium from which attorneys can present evidence in a variety of formats, including VCR and DVD. Laptops can be plugged into the podium for presentations ranging from text to computer animations. Another standard feature is an “illustrated board,” which allows a witness to annotate a document, after which a photograph of the annotated board can be printed immediately for marking as an exhibit. All courtrooms meet the Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.
Six courtrooms in Supreme Court have video-appearance capabilities, allowing Riker’s Island inmates to participate in brief courtroom appearances by video. Four cameras “give the defendant a visual of everything he would see if he were in court,” said Roger Elliott, the court’s Principal LAN Administrator. Interview booths allow the inmates to consult with their attorneys. These courtrooms are equipped to handle video camera feeds.
The central jury room offers wireless Internet access so potential jurors can do business or browse the Web while waiting. Monitors are available for those who don’t bring a laptop. Drop-screen televisions air 24-hour news channels.
Security includes over 500 video cameras — monitored from three control rooms — with more coming, said Elliott. Doors can be automatically locked and unlocked. Video images are recorded to a hard drive capable of recording up to 28 consecutive days. Stored video is recorded
onto a CD with a watermark that cannot be altered, which is admissible in court. A swipe card system records data on anyone entering a particular area.
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