History of Technology Standards
The Conference of State Court Administrators and National Association for Court Management have joined with the Consortium for National Case Management Automation Functional Standards and National Center State Courts collectively were tasked to assist state courts in automating their case processing systems and developed a set of functional standards for developing new computer systems. We can view technology in courts through a few lens from major databases and record keeping technology to digital imaging technology and presentations. Database management systems can retrieve a person’s criminal history, conviction records of defendants as well as track a defendants’ journey through trial, sentencing and into corrections. Some imaging technology includes video conferencing via closed-circuit TV, cameras, light boxes, and projection screens among many others used in courts today. Let’s say when technology was adopted in law enforcement agencies across the globe it changed evidence technology in the courts. Whether the technology is communications, video surveillance, cameras, closed-circuit TV, Aerial and satellite photography, data stored in desktops, laptops, IPADS, cell phones or in the cloud, encrypted data, geographical information systems and geographical position systems used in crime mapping, next add forensic and crime scene technology all changed how courts operated, accommodated and evaluated each of relevant evidence in the courts.
Courtroom Technology Framework (CTF)
The Court Technology Framework (CTF) was developed by the Joint Technology Committee and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The following goals and objectives were outlined 1) provide an organized view of the increasingly complex landscape of technologies and related standards, 2) define a standard set of components and interfaces that make up a comprehensive court IT environment, 3) help courts more readily identify opportunities for improved efficiency and cost savings through the use of technology and 4) promote alignment of IT initiatives with business goals of the court (National Center for State Courts, n.d., p.1, a.). National standards were developed to ensure uniformity and same standards across courts. For example, developing and implementing the Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPDs) is a model for a set of data standards for the exchange of judicial information exchange developed by NCSC. Some of the categories of IEPDs are child support, child welfare, disposition reporting, traffic citation and drug court. In addition, the Global Justice XML Data Model (GJXDM) is sponsored by the Department of Justice supported the Global XML Structure Task Force (GXSTF). The Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global) mission “the efficient sharing of data among justice entities” is accomplished by GAC Working Groups developing technology standards such as the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) and research by sharing issues such as the National Criminal Justice Sharing Plan (NCISP) via a global website (United States Department of Justice, n.d. b.). Functional standards were developed to assist designers, managers, and analysts identify what the system should perform tracking how a case moves through the court system. The movement of a case starts with 1) Case initiation and indexing, 2) Docketing and related recordkeeping, 3) Scheduling, 4) Document generation and processing, 5) Calendaring, 6) Hearings, 7) Disposition, 8) Execution, 9) Case close, 10) Accounting (including front counter, cashier, back office and general ledger functions), 11) Security, and Management and statistical reports (NCSC, n.d., p.1).
The Courtroom Technology Manual includes architectural/engineering team coordination, consultants, infrastructure standards, overview of audio systems, video evidence system standards and video conference standards. The purpose of the manual distributed from the United States Courts was to reduce the reliability on paper and achieving economic ways of doing business (U.S. Courts, n.d.). To download a copy, visit the following website http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/publications/courtroom-technology-manual
Courts 21st Century
Today, prosecuting attorneys have office computers and new software system to assist with tracking and management of cases. Technology has helped cases move faster through the court system. Prior to the advent of technology, it was nonexistent to track criminal litigation, case processing delays, case outcomes as well as other management abilities in cases. Prosecutors have the ability to manage cases and examine data on arrests, caseloads, and track conviction rates. In addition, evidence is now computerized as well as police case files making it easier for retrieval. Additionally, outside sources are retrievable such as driver licenses, phone records, credit information, and commercial transaction sales, banking records and videos from crime scenes, police cars and personal cell phones. Prosecutors have expanded their office capabilities and established specialized units to investigate specific types crimes such as domestic violence, drug traffickers, youth gangs and adult career offenders are just a few and high profile cases.
High Tech Courtrooms
Stepping into courtrooms today in the United States it is like a sci-fi movie compared to twenty years ago. High tech courtrooms have the ability to facilitate video conferencing and telecommunications, and judicial hearings. Evidence is displayed in presentations using large screen monitors, projectors, via computers, networks, Wi-Fi, and sound systems. Several courtrooms have media rooms, satellites capabilities and access to court record databases.
Many states and jurisdictions have implemented logistical solutions to many of their shared issues that have commonly occurred in all courtroom cases. Technology has aided citizens; take for instance an elderly witness unable to travel to the court and provide testimony due to her limited abilities. Next, child witnesses who are afraid to confront the accuser in the courtroom, technology can facilitate their testimony. In addition, judges that are out of town and need to conduct arraignments within the time constraints of their jurisdiction can do so using technology. Even judges from other jurisdictions that need to conduct business in another area can do so via live video. Last, video technology can assist with overcrowded courtrooms and high profile cases that cannot handle seating capacity. High tech courtrooms are solutions to just a few named issues.
High technology courtrooms can integrate electronic evidence presentation with multiple flat displays allowing the judge, attorney, testifying witness, jury and gallery views. Using integrated assistive listening and interpretive systems, video conferencing for arraignments, remote witnessed and secluded witnesses are all possible. Ultimately, judges control the technology from the bench. Many cases have already used digital 3D graphics and images for evidence presentations. Courtrooms have the capability to accommodate various audio and input sources where attorneys can highlight, annotate or print text, images while displaying the image to the judge and jury. Closed-circuit technology allows judges to conduct daily arraignments and advisements without transporting prisoners to the courtroom. Close-circuit technology can increase the overall safety in courtrooms and officers who traditionally had to transport prisoners to the courtroom. Closed-circuit technology is used to allow child abuse victim to testify in court in lieu of testifying in the courtroom where they were in the same room of the accused, thereby preventing additional trauma to victims. Witnesses have testified from other countries and states in lieu of attending in court. High Tech Courts can be found at all levels of courts in the United States. Many courts have developed and implemented a Courtroom Technology Officer which coordinates research and facilitates automation and technological advancement through the court system in their jurisdictions. The need to develop, coordinate, and implement technology and information systems is streamlined to handle multiple courts in one jurisdiction or state. The need to hire a Courtroom Technology Officer to manage systems and information technology.