Shutter Encoder


Shutter Encoder

We are constantly on the lookout for new tools to keep in our litigation support toolbox and Shutter Encoder is quickly becoming one of our new favorites. It’s a publicly available (a.k.a. “free”) media converter program that is based on standards and functions within the open-source FFmpeg software project. Currently there are both PC and Mac versions available for download from their website:

Here are a few of our favorite things we like to do with Shutter Encoder:  

Convert file formats

Media files come in lots of different formats (ex: .asf, .avi, .mpg, .mov, .wmv, .amr, .m4a, .wav, .wma, etc…). It can sometimes be a struggle to consistently get them all to play. Some files are only compatible with specific programs, operating systems, and devices while others may also require that special “codec” packages be installed. Shutter Encoder can be used to convert media files using “standard” output codecs that work with a wide variety of environments.

For most video files the output codec standard we recommend is an MP4 file using the H.264 standard. This format is compatible with many modern devices, operating systems and video playback applications.

For example, we might have some .ASF video files that play in VLC Media Player, but will not work in Trial Director. When we add these files to Shutter Encoder, choose the H.264 output codec, then select the “Start Function” button, we produce new MP4 copies of the files that will play in both programs.

With audio files, we like to use the MP3 standard when converting as it works seamlessly with most media players. When choosing an MP3 output, you can further select from a list of different audio “bitrates” (in kb/s), which will affect the quality and file size. In most situations, we choose the 128 bitrate as that offers a nice balance between the two.

Cut, Remove and Split

There are many times when only a portion of a media file is needed. To produce a clip, or remove an unwanted section, Shutter Encoder includes Cut, Remove and Split options. We can access these features from a playback screen when converting file formats (ex: after adding a video file and choosing the H.264 Output codec).

The playback screen includes a timeline band (with a waveform graphic overlay), a play control button set, and a Mode selector. To select a portion of the media being converted, click and drag from the left and/or right sides of the timeline band. Alternatively, there are Begin and End buttons within the playback button set that can be used. The Mode dropdown in the lower right includes the following options:

  • Cut converts the selected portion of the media (and ignores unselected parts).
  • Remove takes out the selected portion (and converts unselected parts). 
  • Split (less commonly used) divides media into separate files based on a user defined number of seconds.

We can preview a Cut or Remove section in a separate window by using the “Preview” button located to the right of the Mode dropdown. The actual Cut, Remove or Split will begin once the “Start Function” button is pressed and will only affect the output file (not the original).

Reduce video file size

Larger video files can often be difficult to work with. They can take a long time to open, use up valuable drive space, and prove challenging to share with others.

In addition to the Cut, Remove and Split features listed above, there are “bitrate” adjustments that can be made to video files that affect the size of the output file during conversion. Bitrate settings affect things like the video smoothness and sound clarity. Though the default options work well in most scenarios, it is possible to adjust these settings to create a smaller sized output file. Generally speaking, the following settings allow for a more compact output file size without any noticeable quality losses:

  • Video bitrate: 2500 kb/s
  • Audio bitrate: 128 kb/s

Adjust video rotation

If certain videos (especially those recorded on mobile devices) are not playing back in the correct orientation, we can re-orient them within Shutter by 90 degree increments. When the conversion function is chosen, Image Rotation options appear above the bitrate adjustments on the right panel. The preview window shows how the new orientation will appear in the output file when adjusting these settings.     

Download web video(s)

Another useful function within Shutter is Download Web Video. This will attempt to download available videos from specified webpage addresses (URLs). Though it may not work with all videos on all webpages (due to page design or video protection protocols), it seems to work well with many common sources including Youtube, Vimeo and FaceBook video posts. We can copy and paste one or more URLs and the program will attempt to download the videos to the desktop. We can even point it to a Youtube channel page and to attempt to download multiple videos (if there are a lot of videos on the channel, be mindful that it might take a long time and a lot of hard drive space).

Below is a brief video demonstrating some of the functions mentioned in this post:

When a WOTUS is not Water: Winning the War with TRIAL DIRECTOR


Courtroom technology is a boon for attorneys conducting courtroom presentations. Perhaps its greatest advantage is that the technology allows you to present your theory of the case in a visual way. Research and experience show us that having relevant graphics is more persuasive than words alone.[1] A principal challenge for the defense in criminal cases is that we are reactive to the government. We have to adjust to how the prosecution builds its case in chief when putting on our defense. Trial Director’s[2] greatest benefit for defense practitioners is that it allows them to add a visual component to their cross examination on the fly. This feature is critical, as more often than not we will be unsure how a witnesses’ testimony will come in on direct, and what we may need to focus on during cross-examination. To illustrate how Trial Director can be a useful tool for CJA panel attorneys and Federal Defenders, we will review a real case I worked on, United States v. Lucero, No. 19-10074 (9th Cir. 2021). This trial involved explaining complex scientific and regulatory information to a jury. Let me give you an example of how we used Trial Director and visuals to assist with the cross-examination of witnesses – and then tied it together in closing. I served as the “hot seat” operator, pulling up and annotating exhibits under the attorneys’ direction, as I describe in detail below.

Dumping Debris into a WOTUS

Our client, a dirt broker, was charged with illegally dumping debris onto federally protected wetlands on an undeveloped, privately owned property in Newark, California. This area covers about 400 acres located south of San Francisco near Mowry Slough. It is next to the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At the time of the charged offense, a consortium of developers was in the process of planning a master-planned golf course community on the site.[3] The case was brought under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1251 et seq. (“CWA”) which made it a crime to discharge pollutants onto wetlands, regulatorily defined as traditional navigable waters, without a permit. At trial, we conceded that our client dumped debris without a permit. The judge denied our requested knowledge instruction, so the government did not have to prove Lucero’s knowledge of the wetland issue. Multiple government experts testified that the dump sites qualified under the regulatory definition as “wetlands.” However, the sites did not appear wet at the time of our client’s conduct, because the dumping occurred during the summer and after several years of drought.

As we shall show below, we were able to set up the issue of knowledge at trial, and eventually won on appeal. Below are a series of brief examples designed to illustrate how we used TRIAL DIRECTOR during the cross-examination of witnesses.

Educating the Jury

The map at Figure 1 was one of the exhibits we used during the cross-examination of a government expert. Initially, this expert was hired by the developers to conduct an environmental analysis of the area. During direct examination, the government showed the expert a series of maps to elicit testimony designed to illustrate precisely where, on the property designated as wetlands, our client dumped debris. These two regions in the map below demarcated with red boundaries were where he dumped debris using dump trucks over a period of several months.

Figure 1
Figure 1

This map included a key indicating which parts of the area were designated as wetland (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2

During cross-examination of the expert, we used what Trial Director describes as a “callout.” The attorney directed me to zoom in on the portion of the exhibit that had the map key. Using the software program, I drew a box around the map key. The software program pulled out that portion of the exhibit, making it larger, while adding a 3-D fade-black effect on it with projection lines. NOTE: I could adjust the size and shape of the “callout” on the fly, and even scroll within it as needed. The attorney then elicited testimony about how, for example, there were significant segments of the area in question that were not designated as wetland, to support our lack-of-knowledge argument.

Tributaries, Culverts, and Navigable Waters

Figure 3 is another map of the same region, again with red demarcations showing that the area where our client dumped debris was protected wetland, but with additional details such as references to tributaries and culverts.

Figure 3
Figure 3

The map at Figure 4 is a screenshot of what I did live in front of the jury pursuant to the attorney’s instructions. This process was dynamic. The attorney asked me to do a callout, and instructed me to draw arrows to show the areas where our client was accused of dumping debris, within the “South Fill Area and the North Fill Area”.

Figure 4
Figure 4

The crucial fact in dispute was whether this area was considered a WOTUS, and that determination involved the question of whether the TNW had a “tributary;” that is, whether it showed physical features of flowing water. One of the areas of “flowing water” was this culvert. Live, in front of the jury, the attorney instructed me to use the “Zoom Region” tool in Trial Director to allow the jury a closer view of the map detail (Figure 5).

Figure 5
Figure 5

The Presentation screen is a feature of Trial Director that can be used to display multiple pieces of evidence simultaneously.  It is divided into nine zones – Zone 1 is the left side of the screen, Zone 2 is the right side of the screen, Zone 5 is to the top left quadrant, and so forth. We used this feature to address the question of whether the culvert was a WOTUS during cross-examination of a witness. Figure 6 shows the aerial map of the area with the culvert in Zone 1, shown side by side with a video of the general area of the culvert Zone 2, paused to show the culvert in the foreground. The attorney then instructed me to use the annotation tools to add arrows and ellipses to indicate where the video footage of the culvert was in relation to what was shown in the aerial map. (Figure 6).

Figure 6
Figure 6

Figure 7 (below) is an iteration of Figure 6, with the aerial map still on the left side of the presentation screen (Zone 1) while on the right side of the screen (Zone 2) the attorney instructed me to again pull up the same video exhibit. However, instead of the same frame of the clip shown in Figure 6, the attorney instructed me to play the video and then pause it at a point showing a close-up of the water flowing through the culvert. The attorney also instructed me to use the annotation tools to add arrows and ellipses to indicate where the video frame of the culvert was in relation to what was shown on the aerial ma. One related and exciting feature of Trial Director is its ability to do a callout of a portion of a video while it plays. You can zoom in on a specific area of the video, do a callout, and let it continue running to show the zoomed area in detail as it plays. This feature can be particularly useful when playing surveillance or body cam videos.

Figure 7
Figure 7

A Close Reading of Topographical Maps  

One of the government’s witnesses in the Lucero case was a civil engineer who had been involved in conducting a land survey of this area – again, the issue was whether the geological and ecological features of the area met the criteria for it to be considered a WOTUS. We conducted an extensive cross-examination of the civil engineer, during which we closely reviewed a series of topographical maps, such as the one shown in the video below (Figure 8). To effectively pull off this cross-examination, the testimony was tied to a close reading of the topographical maps, focusing on the significance of the gradients indicated by the contours. The ability to dynamically pivot on the fly, depending on how the witness testified, was critical.

Closing Argument

When using courtroom technology, most people will use PowerPoint for opening statements and closing arguments. However, Trial Director can be used for openings and closings as well. Many experienced practitioners will use PowerPoint as their primary tool during a closing, but then switch over to Trial Director to show an exhibit, so as to respond to a point made during the government’s closing, and then switch back to PowerPoint to continue. One of the themes we focused on during closing argument was the government’s experts’ re-writing of history. Reports prepared between 2007 and 2016 by environmental consultants hired by the developers, and by the US Army Corps of Engineers, differed in key aspects with the reports developed by the witness the government hired. For example, the 2007 reports did not find that there were any tributaries, while the government’s expert report determined that the ditches in the South Fill Area were in fact ”tributaries.” (Figures 9 & 10)[4]

Figure 9
Figure 9
Figure 10
Figure 10

Furthermore, between 2012 and 2016, California experienced the most severe drought in a millennium, and the bulk of the pictures introduced by the government at trial were from the 2007 reports and January 2017. We argued these photos of ponding, or water, did not prove water in the summer of 2014, when the charged conduct occurred (Figure 11).

Figure 11
Figure 11

Dumping Debris into “Water”

Our defense hinged on educating the jury about technical issues related to wetlands and the complex regulatory definition of WOTUS. The government had a much easier job, namely, to focus on the seemingly unambiguous visual impact of debris dumped onto this area. Our client was found guilty. (Figure 12.)

Figure 12
Figure 12

On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed our client’s conviction and vacated his 30-month sentence. It held that the district court erred by not instructing the jury, as the defense had requested, that the government had to prove the defendant’s knowledge that the sites where he dumped debris were “water.” (Figure 13).

Figure 13

The Lucero trial provided an example of how using Trial Director played out in a real case and establishing a factual record for appeal. We were able to demonstrate on appeal with evidence from the record that the knowledge issue was important given how the site appeared dry at the time of the offense. The visuals provided the backdrop for our expert’s declaration, which we submitted as an offer of proof. The appellate court relied on this record to reverse on the knowledge issue.

If the government had opted to retry the case, it would have had to prove that our client knew he was dumping debris into “water” in the generally understood sense of the term, rather than into an area defined as “a water of the United States” within the meaning of the CWA. Ultimately, the government opted not to re-try the case. On October 20, 2021, our client, who had remained out of custody while the case was pending, pled to one CWA count and an agreed-upon sentence of one year probation.

The chart below sets forth practical considerations for using the software in the courtroom (Figure 14).

Figure 14
Figure 14

This blog post was designed to provide an overview of how you can utilize Trial Director. If you would like to take a deeper dive with a hands-on, one-on-one training, please contact Kelly Scribner or Joe Wanzala.

[1] “People learn more deeply from words and graphics than from words alone. This assertion can be called the multimedia principle, and it forms the basis for using multimedia instruction – that is, instruction containing words (such as spoken or printed text) and graphics (such as illustrations, charts, photos, animation, or video) that is intended to foster learning.” (Mayer, 2021, in press-a). See

[2] As of July 2023, IPRO has renamed TrialDirector 360 to TRIAL DIRECTOR. It has also been called Trial Director and TrialDirector (one word) in the past. For the purposes of this post, we will use the term “TRIAL DIRECTOR” and “Trial Director” interchangeably to describe the software program.


[4] In April 2020, the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated a new WOTUS rule which narrowed the definition of ‘waters of the United States’ and found that ditches would not be considered to be “tributaries.” The most current version of the WOTUS rule took effect March 2023, but then there was a subsequent Supreme Court decision limiting/revising the meaning of WOTUS. see,

ChatGPT: Implications for Criminal Defense Litigation Practice

eDiscovery, or electronic discovery, is the process of identifying, collecting, and analyzing electronically stored information (ESI) in order to be used as evidence in legal cases. This process can be time-consuming and costly, as it often involves manually reviewing large amounts of data. However, advances in artificial intelligence (A.I.) have opened up new opportunities for streamlining the eDiscovery process. One such technology is ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI.

ChatGPT is a powerful tool for natural language processing (NLP) that can understand and generate human-like text. This makes it an ideal candidate for use in eDiscovery, as it can quickly and accurately analyze large amounts of ESI in order to identify relevant information. For example, ChatGPT can be used to identify specific keywords or phrases within a document, classify documents by type, or even summarize the content of a document.

The introductory paragraphs above were generated by ChatGPT in response to a request to write a blog post on ChatGPT and eDiscovery. This is an example of how ChatGPT can generate text in such a way that one cannot immediately tell whether it was written by a machine or human. This blog post will provide initial takes on what the potential ramifications ChatGPT and similar Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) tools can be for the work CJA panel attorneys and federal defenders do. It is not advocating any specific position regarding A.I. technology which has wide ranging and yet to be realized implications in many fields. The goal is to provide a general idea of how this new A.I. technology might impact our work.

What is ChatGPT?

The current version of ChatGPT, 3.5 was released in late 2022 ( It is an artificial intelligence tool built on a natural language processing model known as a Generative Pre-trained Transformer (‘GPT’) or ‘generative A.I.’ developed by OpenAI. ChatGPT is great for generating human-like text to help solve problems. This can include answers to questions, summaries or translations of large volumes of text, generating lines of code, or providing step-by-step, conversational instructions for a wide range of complex software applications.

ChatGPT is trained on a massive corpus of datasets including many publicly available domains on the internet including Google, the Wayback Machine, Github, WordPress, Wikipedia, and so forth.  However, it is not connected to the internet in real time and has limited knowledge of world and events after 2021. This means it can occasionally produce inaccurate information, a problem that OpenAI acknowledges In some instances, it will tell you it doesn’t know, sometimes it will provide an answer with a disclaimer. It can also provide an authoritative sounding answer that is wrong without any qualifier. It has even been known to fill in the gap with made up information. For example, eDiscovery expert Ralph Losey asked the robot to identify the top five eDiscovery cases for 2022. Since it did not have any 2022 cases to reference – it ignored the date – listed only 2021 cases, and even made up the name of a judge!

In response to these sorts of user experiences, OpenAI recently sent out a tweet with warnings noting that ChatGPT is useful for general information in subject areas such as language, science, engineering, finance, history, culture; and less suitable for high context or niche areas such as legal advice, and real time events.

Can ChatGPT be used for discovery review?

Artificial Intelligence models based natural language processing have been deployed extensively in eDiscovery for some time. Foremost among these approaches is Technology Assisted Review (TAR)[1] which uses algorithms to identify and highlight relevant information based on input from subject matter experts. This technique helps reduce attorney review time and thereby creating time and cost and workflow efficiencies.

Since TAR and generative A.I. are both based on the natural language processing branch of artificial intelligence (Figure 1), one might assume that ChatGPT’s ability to generate human-like information about a broad and complex range of data sets could be easily applied to eDiscovery to enhance eDiscovery review methods such as TAR. Indeed, in the second introductory paragraph above, ChatGPT generated text that describes common eDiscovery tasks that artificial intelligence software can perform with the proper conditions. But it also wrote that it, ChatGPT, could do these types of tasks. While it is true that ChatGPT can perform these tasks based on information it has been trained on, it was not designed to perform eDiscovery tasks, and OpenAI has not developed a version of the GPT technology that can be utilized for eDiscovery. Furthermore, even if the underlying GPT-3.5 model could be developed for an eDiscovery environment, the immense computing resources it currently requires, designed for vast amounts of data, would make it non-scalable and cost-prohibitive.

Figure 1.

What can ChatGPT do right now?

ChatGPT has more direct application in terms of workflow and analysis. Discovery in criminal cases increasingly includes both structured (databases, spreadsheets) and unstructured (documents, videos, audio files, phone extractions, social media, emails) data. Currently, most workflows designed to integrate and synthesize these heterogenous formats are necessarily cumbersome, requiring a patchwork of approaches. Many easily available open source tools (e.g. Openrefine, referenced below) or applications such as Microsoft Excel which can be helpful to practitioners are under-utilized, if leveraged at all. ChatGPT has the potential to help bridge the gap between the utility of these applications and practitioners’ ability utilize them.

For example, below (Figure 2) is a screenshot showing ChatGPT’s response to a question about importing a CSV file[2] into CaseMap (a fact and case organization and analysis tool – Note that while ChatGPT is providing helpful feedback, it is not providing specific, practical instructions on how to carry out the importation of the CSV file into a CaseMap database. This is due to the limited information about CaseMap built into the OpenAI model. In the example above, ChatGPT was able to provide a step-by-step guide on how to import a CSV file into CaseMap. However, there are better and more efficient ways to import a CSV file into CaseMap than what ChatGPT prescribed.

Figure 2.

In our second example, (Figure 3) we see how ChatGPT can help us deal with, CSV files containing ‘messy’ data, in this case duplicate rows in a spreadsheet. It provided guidance on how to utilize a tool called Openrefine to ‘clean-up’ the spreadsheet.

Figure 3.

Since Openrefine is a free, open source tool, ChatGPT was able to develop more accurate information than one might expect when dealing with ‘closed’, proprietary tools such CaseMap.


The need to harness software to effectively work our cases will only increase as data complexity continues to ratchet up. ChatGPT can help facilitate the utilization and adoption of open source and business applications in response to these challenges; lowering the bar to access by providing on-demand, human-like support to practitioners. This can help with the ‘trees’ we believe are relevant to our cases; e.g. a subset of files responsive to a search query. This still leaves the ‘forest’; the large tranches of discovery which we load into review platforms such as Eclipse SE and Casepoint, to parse and organize the data. Whether or how the generative AI technology underlying ChatGPT will have impact in this latter arena remains to be seen.

[1] Also known as predictive coding, computer assisted review, or supervised machine learning.

[2] A comma-separated values (CSV) file is a delimited text file that uses a comma to separate values. Each line of the file is a data record, and usually consists of tabular data from a database. The CSV file format is supported by a wide variety of business applications including MS Excel

Microsoft Excel Tips & Tricks for CJA Cases: Formatting Tables

This post is part of an ongoing series of videos on how Microsoft Excel can help CJA practitioners (including attorneys, paralegals, investigators, and mitigation specialists) in their CJA cases.

Previous Post: Filename Lists
Today’s Post: Formatting Tables

CJA panel attorneys and federal defenders frequently receive some of their discovery in spreadsheet or Excel format. Call detail records and indices listing information regarding discovery productions (often called document indexes) are two examples. Having the files in Excel format instead of PDF is advantageous as spreadsheets are designed to sort and filter information, either by a single or multiple criteria. With voluminous information, this ability to sort and filter by multiple criteria can speed up review and allow you to identify the information you are interested in. For example, if you have telephone call records in Excel format, it is easy to filter by a number of phone numbers and quickly narrow the entries to review with several clicks. If the same information is in PDF format, it would have to be done manual and take much, much more time.

For those experienced with Excel, it is a welcome sight to see the data in Excel format. However, for the neophyte Excel user who only reviews PDF files, it can be frustrating to navigate Excel and review the data. This post provides quick and easy formatting options that are available within Excel that can save you review time.

Let’s look at a mock discovery document index as an example. Often the document index starts as a simple list of files with some basic information. As these lists become longer and include more document details (frequently in the form of additional columns), they can be hard to read and work with unless formats are applied. The video below demonstrates quick and simple options within Excel that can help to transform a basic list into a better looking, more functional table that include easy to use sort and filter features.


Some of the topics covered in the video above are:

Column Width
It often helps to be able to adjust the width of columns to better fit important information on your screen. To adjust the width of a column:

  • Move the cursor in between the column headers until it becomes a black line with two arrows.
  • To manually adjust the width of a column left-click then drag the black line to the right or left.
  • To automatically adjust a column, double left click and the column width will become as wide as the longest text entry in that column.
  • Multiple columns can be adjusted at the same time by selecting them before making a manual or automatic adjustment.

Wrap Text
Automatically resizing row heights helps to make the words within longer text cells visible. Select the cells, rows or columns to be adjusted then choose the “Wrap Text” button from the Home menu.

Cell Alignment
Adjusting cell alignments can sometime help make items more uniform and easier to view. By default, Microsoft Excel aligns numbers to the “Bottom-Right” of cells and text to the “Bottom-Left”. A common adjustment is to change cells that are “Bottom” aligned to become “Top” aligned, as that is generally easier to read. To do this: select the cells, rows or columns to be adjusted then choose the “Top Align” button from the Home menu. “Right” aligned cells can be adjusted to “Left” alignment through a similar process.

Freeze Panes
Selecting certain columns and rows to always be visible greatly increases the readability of longer lists. To freeze panes:

  • Left click on the cell to the right of, and below the rows and columns you wish to always be visible.
  • From the View menu, click on the “Freeze Panes” button and select the “Freeze Panes” option.

Data Filter
Data filtering is a powerful formatting option. It unlocks the ability to easily sort, filter and search within columns. To turn on filtering:

  • Select all of the data including any column names.
  • From the Data menu, select the “Filter” button.
  • Once data filtering has been enabled, items can be sorted, searched and filtered on by choosing the filter button from the columns.

Format as Table
Alternatively, data can be filtered by selecting a “Format as Table” style. “Table” styles are a quick way to make the data visually pleasing and they automatically include the data filtering feature. To turn a list into a “Table” style:

  • Select all of data including any column names.
  • From the Home menu, click on the “Format as Table” button and select your desired style (I like the “Medium” styles personally).
  • From the “Create Table” dialog box select the “My Table has headers” option then click the “OK” button.

Note: Be aware that these format changes are modifications to the original Excel file. If preserving an original copy of the file is important make sure to choose the “Save As” option when saving changes.

Electronic Exhibit Sticker

Preparing exhibits for trial or court hearings, though not glamorous, is an essential task in the practice of courtroom litigation. Depending on the volume and type of exhibits, this necessary task can quickly turn tedious if you must print each exhibit, affix a physical sticker, fill out the exhibit and case information by hand, then scan and submit the stickered exhibit. In the heat of trial where last minute changes take place frequently, it is easy to make mistakes. However, with the right type of technology, such as Adobe Acrobat Pro (or Standard), this process can be done more smoothly, help reduce opportunities for making errors, and done more quickly than the old school method of stickers and paper  If you have Adobe Acrobat*, we suggest considering using digital (electronic) exhibit stickers for your next case.

*Acrobat Standard or Pro, not the free “Reader” version.

This post will walk you through how you can create digital exhibits on your own, including the process of installing a sticker that takes the form of a custom Acrobat stamp. The stamp will allow you to quickly fill in the exhibit and case numbers for your case, and will automatically remember your previous entries the next time you use it.

First, follow the instructions below to install the electronic exhibit sticker.


  1. Download and copy the exhibit_stickers.pdf file to a location that is easily accessible, such as your Desktop. (NOTE: You can delete this PDF file once we are finished with the installation.)
  1. Open Acrobat and press CTRL-K to open the Preferences menu. Scroll down on the left to “Security (Enhanced)”. Click the “Add File” button, which will open a file explorer window.
  1. Type %appdata% into the address bar and press enter.
  1. This will open a new folder.  Open the “Adobe” folder, then the “Acrobat” folder. You may see folders for the different versions that have been installed like a “2017”, “2020” or a “DC” folder. Open the “DC” folder if you have that, or else the highest folder year you have. Open the “Stamps” folder. Find the “exhibit_stamps.pdf” file you saved and drag or copy and paste it into the Stamps folder. Select the file and click “Open.”
  1. This will take you back to the Preferences screen. Verify that exhibit_stamps.pdf is listed inside the box. If the file is there, click “OK”. Then close out of all Acrobat windows.


  1. Open the PDF that needs an exhibit sticker. Select the “Comment” tool from the list along the right side of the screen.
  1. This will open a new toolbar. Click on the Stamp tool icon, navigate to the “Exhibit Sticker” menu, then click on the Exhibit sticker image.
  1. The first time you use the sticker, it will pop up this window. Check “Don’t show again” and click “Complete.” There is no need to enter any information.
  1. Your cursor will now become a floating exhibit sticker. Click where you would like to place the sticker. Do not worry if the initial placement is not perfect; you can move the sticker to a different part of the page and even resize the sticker after you have placed it.
  1. When you click to place the stamp, a window will pop up asking you to enter an Exhibit Number. Enter the Exhibit number in the box and press OK.
  1. Next, a window will pop up asking you for a Case number. Enter the Case number and press OK.
  1. This will place an exhibit sticker on your PDF that contains the Exhibit Number and Case Number. You can move and resize the sticker if needed. If you need remove or change any of the information on the sticker, you can right click on the sticker, select “Delete” and create a new sticker.
  1. To permanently affix the sticker to the document, you will need to print the document to a new PDF. Go to the File menu and select Print. Now change your printer to “Adobe PDF”, change the “Comments & Forms” selection to “Document and Stamps”, then press print and save your new copy to the location of your choosing.
  1. That’s it. You will now have a permanently stamped PDF document. The next time you want to stamp a document, Acrobat will pre-fill your last enter Exhibit Number and Case Number, so it will be easier to keep track of your exhibits if you are marking multiple documents in one sitting, and you will not have to re-enter the case number each time.

If you need any assistance with installation, you can contact me at

Working with Email in Discovery: Processing Options and Review Workflows


Technologies that allow for easier review of ediscovery in native format have become more affordable and accessible. Working with files in native format has several advantages including avoiding loss of potentially relevant information, access to metadata and better searchability. Email is one of the most common of the native formats produced in discovery. This article will explore some approaches for processing email and identify a number of low-cost of tools that can assist. (This article deals with the processing but not the substantive review of emails for case analysis – for this you should consider other tools such as CaseMap, or – for larger collections of emails – review platforms such as Casepoint or IPRO.)

The tools and approaches you select will depend on a combination of three factors: (1) volume, (2) format(s) and (3) the defense team goals. While a single tool might facilitate a discreet goal, more involved goals may require different approaches with a combination of tools. These scenarios can be ends in themselves or phases in an overall workflow. This article does not try to anticipate every possible situation that might arise but will explore a few common scenarios.

Many electronic file formats produced in the course discovery like Acrobat, Excel and Word files are generally accessible via standard software available on most computers. However, email file formats like MSG, EML, PST, and MBOX files present more of a challenge as often the recipient may not know how to access these files. 

Below is a quick overview of some of the most common email file formats encountered in eDiscovery that will be discussed in this article:

  • MSG: A Microsoft format for single emails. Often associated with the Microsoft Outlook email client.
  • PST: A Microsoft format for a collection of emails (as well as other potential items including: Calendars, Contacts, Notes and Tasks). Often associated with the Microsoft Outlook email client.
  • EML: Email format for single emails used by many email clients including Novell GroupWise, Lotus notes, Windows Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Postbox.
  • MBOX: Email format for a collection of emails (as well as other potential items including: Calendars, Contacts, Notes and Tasks) used by many email clients including Novell GroupWise, Lotus Notes, Windows Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Postbox.

All four formats are typically received in discovery and subpoena returns. Google Takeout, a service offered by Google which allows you to download your email, will produce emails in the MBOX format.

Working with these email formats consists of understanding which tool is compatible with which file format, and which tool or set of tools will most effectively allow you to achieve your goals. Below is a table that maps out some of various tools available in terms of which file formats they are able to process, their functionality and cost. Before using any of these tools, make sure to work with a copy of the data as opposed to the original.

SoftwareCompatible FormatsCostFunctionality
Mozilla Thunderbird with the Import Export Tools add-onEML, MBOXfreeView emails, convert to EML, HTML, MBOX and PDF (without attachments)
Mbox ViewerEML, MBOXfreeView emails, convert to HTML or PDF (without attachments)
PSTViewer ProMSG, EML, PST, MBOX$129View emails, convert to multiple formats including EML, HTML, MBOX and PDF (includes advanced PDF attachment image options)
MS Outlook  MSG, EML, PST$159 or $69.99 per yearView emails, export to MSG, PST and PDF (requires Acrobat integration)
Aid4MailMSG, EML, PST, MBOX$299 per yearConvert email to multiple formats including MSG, HTML, EML, PST, MBOX and PDF
dtsearchMSG, EML, PST, MBOX$199 or *free
Search and view results in email viewer panel (no conversion or export options)

*For information about a free license of dtSearch available to CJA Panel Attorneys see:

This article will discuss demonstrate how to work with emails in terms of a series of discreet tasks including:

  1. Generate a list of emails to review.
  2. Viewing emails.
  3. Search, tag, and convert emails.
  4. Working with email attachments.

1. Generating a list of emails for review.
An initial task at the outset of a case might be to generate an index to facilitate early case assessment. Some programs, like PstViewer Pro, will work with many formats while other programs, like Mbox Viewer, work with a more limited number of formats.

  • Example 1 – Generating a list using Mbox Viewer:
    Mbox Viewer is a free tool that allows you to preview emails and generate a list of emails by simply selecting messages in the viewer, doing a right click and selecting print to CSV, then selecting which fields you would like to include in the spreadsheet (Figure 1-1).
Figure 1-1
  • The resulting CSV file contains a table that can be opened in Excel or imported into other programs (Figure 1-2).
Figure 1-2

2. Viewing emails.
While a list will provide you with a high-level overview of the emails you have in terms of subject matter, players involved and so forth, a closer review will require a different approach. MS Outlook, Mbox Viewer and Mozilla Thunderbird are all tools which can be utilized for this purpose.

  • Example 2.1 – Viewing emails received in PST format using MS Outlook:
    Within Outlook open the ‘File’ menu, select the ‘Open & Export’ button, then ‘Open Outlook Data File’. Navigate to the folder containing the PST file (Figure 2-1) and select the file to import. Outlook will create a folder within the ‘Personal folders’ from where you can conduct a review of the files.
Figure 2-1
  • Example 2.2 – Viewing emails received in MBOX format using Mozilla Thunderbird with the Import Export Tools add-on:
    The free ‘Import Export Tools’ add-on available for Mozilla Thunderbird allows for the import and viewing of MBOX files. After the add-on has been installed, right click on ‘local folders’, then choose ‘Import mbox file’ from the ‘ImportExportTools NG’ menu and navigate to the folder containing the MBOX file (Figure 2-2). This will copy the MBOX file into Thunderbird’s ‘Local Folders’ where, similar to Outlook, you can conduct a review of the emails within.
Figure 2-2

3. Search, tag, and convert emails
The approaches discussed in the two previous sections can be useful when you simply want to gain a high-level view of the emails, or take a closer look at particular emails in a smaller collection. However, when you are working with large volumes of emails, manual review becomes impractical and inefficient, and taking advantage of the search and tag functionality of the available tools is a better approach.

  • Example 3 – Searching, tagging and exporting within MS Outlook:
    Outlook can be utilized to conduct key word searches, and relevant files can be tagged exported as either MSG or PDF files (using the Acrobat integration that is included with licensed copies of Acrobat Standard and Pro). To tag an email, right click and select ‘Categories’ then select a color coded tag (Figure 3-1). You can also customize the tags using the ‘New Category’ option within the ‘Category’ dialog box (Figure 3-2).
Figure 3-1
Figure 3-2
  • You can then filter and tag a selection of emails (Figure 3-3) and save them to a folder as either individual MSG files or a new PST file. If you have a licensed version of Adobe Acrobat, there integration menu within Outlook can be used to convert messages into individual PDF’s or a combined ‘PDF Portfolio’ (Figure 3-4).
Figure 3-3
Figure 3-4
  • When choosing an export format, be aware of the limitations of the different conversion formats. The HTML and PDF export formats typically will not include the complete email metadata. Email header information that may include important information like IP addresses used may be lost during conversion. Export formats including the MSG, EML, MBOX and PST retain much more of the original email metadata.

4. Working with email attachments.
Emails invariably have attachments, which, in addition to the body of the email can contain substantive relevant information. The programs discussed in this post vary greatly with how attachments are handled during format conversion. Be aware that some of the programs are not able to include the attachments when exporting to PDF. While PDFs are generally easier to add bates stamps to or turn into exhibits not all programs include the attachments..

  • Example 4.1 – Exporting email with attachments using Mozilla Thunderbird with the Import Export Tools add-on:
    Thunderbird offers several export options including the ability to batch export relevant emails when using the Import Export Tools add-on. It does not have the ability to embed or append attachments when exporting messages to PDF, however it does allow for emails to be exported to the EML format (with attachments embedded) as well as an HTML format, which will include links to exported copies of the attachments (Figure 4-1).
Figure 4-1
  • Example 4.2 – Exporting email with attachments using PSTViewer Pro:
    PSTViewer Pro is yet another option for format conversion, and is a great tool to use in conjunction with tools like Thunderbird or Outlook. It can convert to many formats and includes some advanced PDF conversion options. When converting to PDF, attachments can either be embedded or “imaged” (Figure 4-2). The “imaged” option will convert supported attachments into PDF pages and appended them to the PDF version of the email (Figure 4-3).
Figure 4-2
Figure 4-3


As shown in this article there are a multiplicity of tools available to work with emails that are not universally compatible with all email formats and do not have the same functionality. This requires careful thought about how to leverage and integrate the tools. The best path forward through this thicket is to know what your goals are before you select your tool. Defining your goal early will help you select which tool or combination of tools you should use to develop an effective workflow that matches both the set of data you are working with and the needs of your case.

TrialDirector 360 Discount for CJA Panel Attorneys Licenses

The National Litigation Support Team (NLST) is pleased to announce that IPRO has agreed to provide a discounted rate for CJA panel attorneys to purchase a subscription license of TrialDirector 360.

TrialDirector 360 is a courtroom presentation tool that allows users the ability to present documents, pictures and videos in hearings and trials. Users can prepare exhibits in advance, or instantly display exhibits to jurors and judges. Additionally, attorneys can direct jurors’ attention to the most important parts of exhibits by doing call-outs, zoom-ins, mark-ups, highlights, and side-by-side comparisons of documents. During the examination of a witness, it is easy to do a screen capture of information that has been displayed to the jury for later use in the trial, and the software works well when used along with PowerPoint. TrialDirector has been successfully used for many years by FDOs and CJA panel attorneys representing clients and has been a staple of the Law and Technology workshop training series for close to 20 years.

CJA panel attorneys can purchase TrialDirector 360 at a discounted price of $556.50 per year (approximately 40% off the retail price). This price is for a subscription, so you must pay this amount each year to continue using the software.

If CJA panel attorneys are interested in purchasing TrialDirector 360 contact Kelly Scribner. If you have any questions regarding the utilization of TrialDirector 360 for your office, please contact the National Litigation Support Team (NLST): Kelly Scribner or Alex Roberts.

The NLST will be providing remote one-on-one training on how to use TrialDirector 360 for any user interested. Please have the user contact Kelly Scribner to schedule training.

Additional TrialDirector program information and resources are available on the IPRO TrialDirector 360 help center.