Courts face a variety of challenges, including tight budgets, an increasingly diverse population and, of course, the task of meting out fair, timely justice on a daily basis.

Video conferencing can help with these challenges in several ways:

  • Remote arraignment reduces transportation costs and avoids scheduling delays by letting courts conduct routine proceedings while a defendant is at a detention or correctional facility.
  • Remote expert testimony cuts costs and widens the net of knowledgeable individuals who can participate in courtroom proceedings from any location.
  • Remote interpretation helps courts cope with federal language diversity mandates at lower cost by allowing them to enlist skilled, offsite interpreters.

Municipal, county, state and federal courts vary considerably in their resources, needs and openness to new technology, so not all courts will adopt all three use cases. But just about every court system can benefit from at least one of them.

Technical and Legal Complexities

The use cases above have different technical implications. Remote arraignment, for example, can be simple to deploy because arraignments tend to be straightforward and courtrooms are typically on the same network as the facilities where defendants are held.

Remote expert testimony is more involved. For one thing, subject matter experts are usually not on the same network as the courtroom. The network firewall and the video conferencing application must therefore be configured to allow authorized parties to participate in teleconferences. Courts must ensure experts have any necessary video conferencing hardware or software installed on their remote device — and that they know how to use it. Participants also need a way to test the system before the trial date.

Remote interpretation introduces even more complex issues, as interpreters typically require two audio channels: one for communicating with the court at large and one for interacting with whomever needs their services. Since video conferencing systems typically provide only one channel, it may be necessary to use a video conference and a phone bridge simultaneously. The positioning of mics and cameras can be challenging because interpreters rely on nonverbal cues from the defendant, the judge, both opposing counsels and any witnesses. They also need very high-quality audio to detect nuances in everyday speech.

Getting There from Here

These challenges highlight two truths about video conferencing in court.

First, successful implementation takes a lot of thought and planning. Court system stakeholders thus need to evaluate solutions right away if they want to reap the benefits anytime soon.

Second, it’s good to get outside help from a partner who — in addition to having expertise in video conferencing technology — understands the special requirements of the courtroom. That courtroom knowledge can help avoid a lot of potential pitfalls and ensure that the requirements of both technology and justice are successfully met.

Curious to hear more about how technology is transforming the courtroom? Take a look at our StateTech Magazine articles, “Connecting the Nation’s Justice Systems” and “Panasonic Video Recording Aids Police Investigations.” Interested to learn more about CDW’s videoconferencing solutions? Check out this data sheet for legal professionals for more information.

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