Admissibility of Text Messages

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[Editor’s Note: Alicia Penn joined the NLST in September of 2023 from the District of South Carolina Federal Defender Office, where she represented clients charged with offenses involving everything from turtles to terrorism. A career Public Defender, she was forced to become proficient in electronically stored information after being assigned a 3-terabyte lottery scam case in 2013. Ever since, she has worked to adapt to the ever-changing electronic landscape and make it work in favor of her clients. In her new role her goal is to provide practical solutions to technological problems.]

Are screenshots of text messages admissible? The answer is everyone’s favorite: it depends!

There is no federal rule expressly forbidding the use of screenshots of text messages in court, but not all relevant evidence is admissible. To get a screenshot admitted and considered by a judge or jury there are procedural hurdles to overcome. Conversely, if your goal is to keep a screenshot out, the federal rules give you a framework to argue against admission.

The Rules:

Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a): In general, the proponent of the evidence must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is. (b) gives examples of evidence that satisfies this requirement.

Other federal rules you can make hay with are: 1002 (Best Evidence), 401 (Relevance), 801 (Hearsay).

For a thorough and beautiful rubric of how to admit or challenge admission of electronic evidence, see

Admissibility of Electronic Evidence Chart by Hon. Paul W. Grimm and Kevin F. Brady (2018) craigball.com/Grimm Brady Evid Admiss Chart 2018.pdf

In addition, an excellent primer on admitting evidence in federal court is Lorraine v. Markel American Insurance Co., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33020 (D. Md. May 4, 2007).

The Argument:

With reliability as a framework, there are two ways screenshots of text messages are inherently unreliable.

  1. The text message itself is fake.

With only the screenshot, there is no way to prove a text message is real. Anyone can create an image that looks like a text message using a free online program, screenshot it, and then send it or show it to someone and claim it is real. Without any other proof, such as a direct download from a cellphone, subscriber records, IP address data, etc. there is no way to prove that the text message itself was a real message that existed in the way the government witness may claim.

I made the fake chat at the beginning of this post online, for free, entering no personal identifying information, downloading no software program, in two minutes, after Googling, “fake chat generator.”

You can imagine the ways a fake text message could be used against a client. I have had a case where the government wanted to use screenshots of text messages, supposedly received from an informant, and claimed that these screenshots proved my client planned armed robberies. When I showed the screenshots to my client, he denied ever creating or sending them. The government had no other corroborating evidence or witness to show the text messages were real or received from my client. I objected and argued the supposed screenshot was unreliable.

  1. It is a real text message, but the sender/receiver is fake.

This scenario requires only a little more effort. There are apps like TextNow that allow you to send anonymous text messages. In one of my other cases, the government shared screenshots of threatening text messages sent from an anonymous number to my client’s ex-girlfriend and claimed my client had used TextNow to send these messages. Based on these screenshots of text messages, my client was detained, even though I argued the screenshots of text messages were unreliable and shouldn’t be considered. After the hearing, my investigator subpoenaed TextNow for subscriber information linked to the numbers used at the times the texts were sent. TextNow responded within a day, and the subscriber implicated the ex-girlfriend’s new partner as the person who created the text messages and sent the threats. After explaining and presenting this new information to the government and court, my client was released on an unsecured bond.

Cases that talk about screenshots and admissibility:

So, what is enough to admit a screenshot?

In United States v. Walker, 32 F.4th 377 (4th Cir. 2022), a government agent’s personal knowledge about the original report and the comparison of that report with a screenshot of letters calling a victim a snitch was “enough to show the screenshot was authentic. See Fed. R. Evid (b)(1)(4).

In United States v. Quintana, 763 Fed. Appx. 422 (6th Cir. 2019), an account in the defendant’s name, an email address with his name and moniker, a location linked to him, dates that corresponded to witness testimony, and a picture of him, plus other circumstantial evidence, was enough to authenticate a screenshot of a Facebook page presented by the government as the defendant’s.

In United States v. Vayner, 769 F.3d 125 (2nd Cir. 2014), the court did find a screenshot, alone, was not enough. The court expressed no view on what was enough but said that the fact the page with a defendant’s name and photograph existed on the internet was not enough to show the page was created by him or on his behalf.

Conclusion:

If the government presents you with a cellphone screenshot and claims your client is responsible, do not accept this at face value! Investigate it, even if it looks legitimate. Check to see if you received the file from the government in a PDF format, versus in an image format consistent with the device that allegedly took the screenshot. In addition, make the argument that the screenshot, alone, or even with other evidence, is unreliable, unauthenticated, and inadmissible. As part of this attack, educate the court and government on how easy it is to create fake messages. This is necessary to remove the gloss of reliability given to a screenshot of a text message that looks like what we are used to text messages looking like.

Because this question incorporates a technical inquiry, it is an area where working closely with an investigator, paralegal, or expert who understands the processes of the device at issue can help you argue to keep something out or let something in. A knowledgeable source can help you identify weaknesses or vulnerabilities to bring attention to during cross-examination. They should also be able to give you a factual assessment of a device’s or processes’ strengths and reliability. Either way, the more you know and understand, the better you can formulate and convey your argument.

Shutter Encoder

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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: https://www.shutterencoder.com/en/

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:

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 (openai.com/blog/ChatGPT). 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 help.openai.com/en/articles/6783457-chatgpt-general-faq. 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! ediscoverytoday.com/2023/01/02/ai-top-cases-of-2022-doesnt-include-any-cases-from-2022-artificial-intelligence-trends/

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. twitter.com/openaicommunity.

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. law.com/legaltechnews/2023/01/25/what-will-eDiscovery-lawyers-do-after-chatgpt/


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 – nlsblog.org/2011/10/05/cja-panel-attorney-software-discounts). 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 openrefine.org 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.

Conclusion

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 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma-separated_values

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.

Installation

  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.

Usage

  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 carl_adams@fd.org.

NLST webinar

The National Litigation Support Team (NLST) recently presented a national webinar entitled, “Managing and Reviewing Electronic Discovery for CJA Panel Attorneys.” This 90-minute webinar was recorded and is available on fd.org for your review. The recording provides an overview of technology, techniques and search strategies that can help CJA panel attorneys (and federal defender organization personnel) with your review and analysis of electronically stored information that is provided in discovery. We discussed resources that are available to you as a CJA panel attorney or federal defender employee, and questions to ask the next time you get a complex case. Topics covered include the importance of search and retrieval techniques, encryption, Box.com, Adobe Acrobat Pro, dtSearch, CaseMap, Casepoint, and new federal criminal Rule 16.1.

If you are interested in viewing the recording, please go to fd.org/program-materials-and-videos. (NOTE: To view the webinar, you will need to be either a CJA panel attorney who has registered with fd.org , or a member of a federal defender office. If you need assistance accessing the information, go to fd.org/login-help). If you have follow-up questions about any of the topics (as the presentation was meant as an overview), please email us.

Acrobat DC New Features

All of you use Adobe Acrobat on a daily basis.  Whether it is Adobe Acrobat Reader, Standard or Pro, it is an excellent tool for legal professionals for everything from saving pleadings to file with the court’s case management/electronic case file system to reviewing discovery.  Some of you have been using Acrobat for a while and know that Adobe comes out with new versions every couple of years.  The latest version of Acrobat stopped using the number of release to distinguish a new version (like Adobe Acrobat XI), but now calls itself DC, which stands for Document Cloud, and labels the version by the year of the release (Adobe Acrobat DC 2016 the most recent version).  Like many other software companies, Adobe is moving to a cloud based service giving users the option of working on multiple devices seamlessly if they choose to store their files online.  Though designed for cloud use, users do not have to store their documents remotely, and they can continue using Acrobat DC as a desktop program as they always have.

Acrobat DC has a new look compared to previous versions, has been designed to be tablet and cell phone friendly, and gives users the ability to work on a document from different devices seamlessly. The addition of a user friendly tabbed tool bar makes switching from one document to another that much easier.

The “Home” tab shows the most recent files you have worked with.  You can also search for a file in the search bar, open a file by navigating to it by clicking on “My Computer” or going to the File Menu and selecting → Open.

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Once you open a document, the “Document” tab appears at the top of the screen, allowing you to easily navigate from the Document to the Tool Center to the Home page.

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The “Tools” tab, otherwise known as the DC Tool Center centralizes all the features of Acrobat in one place for easy access. Now you can quickly find the tool you need without having to remember which  menu in the tools section to navigate to.

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The “Search Tools” option in DC is intuitive and easy to use. If you want to OCR a document, type OCR in the “Search Tools” section of the Tool Center and all the toolsets related to recognizing text will appear.

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The tool pane that users see when looking at a document can be customized. You can add a tool to the tool pane by selecting “Add Shortcut” from the Tool Center or by right-clicking in the Tool Pane when searching for a tool and adding it there.

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When Tool Groups are opened, they are automatically pinned to the top of the screen. The Tool Group stays open until you close it or open another tool.

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DC gives you multiple ways of accessing the tools you are looking for and then quickly going back to working with your documents.

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The new tabbed tool bar is just one feature of Acrobat DC that makes upgrading worthwhile.  More features will be highlighted in upcoming posts so stay tuned.

CJA Panel Attorney Software Discounts

There are several vendors who offer discounted rates to CJA panel attorneys for their litigation support software.  Currently, there are discounted rates being offered on:

  • CaseMap Bundle (CaseMap/TimeMap/DocManager)
  • dtSearch
  • TrialDirector

We hope to continue the national contracts which encourage these deals to be offered to the CJA panel, but considering the ongoing budget limitations all deals are subject to change.

Note: Like many litigation software programs, these programs are developed for Windows based operating systems and do not work with Macintosh operating systems.

Below is a brief description of the software and the current pricing information for these programs:


CaseMap Bundle (CaseMap/TimeMap/DocManager)

CaseMap and TimeMap are two of the most popular litigation support software programs for FDOs and CJA panel attorneys. CaseMap is a fact management application used to organize, manage, and connect case facts, legal issues, key players, and documents. Because it is a single database, it allows team members to work collaboratively and store important case information in specialized relational spreadsheets for ready access and analysis. Through flexible filtering, CaseMap enables end-users to see how any person, fact, document, or issue relates to other elements in a case. TimeMap is a graphing software used to create visual timelines of case events, assisting judges and jurors in their understanding of the sequence of key events in a case. TimeMap integrates with CaseMap, allowing any record in CaseMap that has a date associated with it to be sent to TimeMap instantly.  DocManager is a CaseMap plug-in that allows users to view highlighted search hits in DocManager’s near-native viewer, and bulk import and view many file formats while still providing Adobe Acrobat integration and functionality that users are accustomed to.

For inquiries contact Kelly Scribner. Due to the ongoing popularity and interest of federal public/community defender offices and the CJA panel in these software programs, LexisNexis has agreed to extend the offer of the CaseMap / DocManager / TimeMap bundle to defender offices and CJA panel attorneys at a special reduced price of $815.00. Besides the significantly reduced price, defender offices and CJA panel attorneys will not have to pay annual maintenance or subscription fees to receive technical support and to obtain upgrades of the CaseMap software for as long as we can continue the national maintenance agreement with LexisNexis..


dtSearch

dtSearch is a popular search and retrieval program, and it is the search engine utilized in well known computer programs such as Forensic Tool Kit (FTK, a computer forensic tool), CaseMap and Adobe Acrobat Pro. This type of program is a useful tool to assist legal teams in searching discovery, creating brief banks, and viewing different file types (including non-PDF files) even if you don’t have the associated application. We have a limited number of licenses available for CJA panel attorneys to use for free (a $200 value).

To obtain the software, please fill out a dtSearch Request Form located at: http://nlsblog.org/2014/03/25/dtsearch-desktop


TrialDirector

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 you are a CJA panel attorney and 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.

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


If you have any questions regarding the utilization of any of these litigation support software programs in your office, please contact either Alex Roberts or Kelly Scribner of the National Litigation Support Team.

What is a “Load File”?

A “load file” is a special kind of file that you may encounter in sets of case related materials.  While there are many different flavors of load files they all serve the same general purpose: they can be used by litigation support software to import (i.e. “load”) information about case related documents. 

Document information may include:

  • Name and locations of image files (typically scanned paper files).
  • Document unitization information (i.e. document breaks).
  • OCR (searchable text) file names and locations.
  • Electronic document (ESI) file names and locations.
  • Extracted metadata information.
  • Other fielded document information.

Load files can play an import role in assisting with the setup of a case document database.  When properly used, they can make the process of importing documents into litigation support applications faster and more efficient.  Some programs that support the importing of load files include evidence review programs (like Summation, Concordance and IPRO) and trial presentation programs (like TrialDirector and Sanction). 

Load files have different file extensions depending on the program they are designed to work with.  When talking with litigation support vendors, or discussing the format of discovery with opposing counsel.  It is important to recognize which load file formats work with your litigation support programs.

Some common file extensions of load files that you might encounter are:

  • .DII      designed to work with AD Summation
  • .OPT   designed to work with Concordance 
  • .LFP    designed to work with IPRO products
  • .OLL    designed to work with TrialDirector
  • .SDT   designed to work with Sanction
  • .DAT   generic document information load file   
  • .CSV   generic document information load file
  • .XML   new “EDRM” style load file format that works with many platforms 

Many load files contain the path of image files associated with a record.  They may also contain meaningful additional information about the documents.  For scanned documents, this may include a bates or control number, coded document information (like document type, date, title, etc…) and information about OCR (searchable text) files that might be associated with the document.   Load files for electronic documents (ESI) may also include extracted metadata (associated information about the files such as author, date created, file size, etc…).   

Most load files are simple lines of text that can be read by litigation support programs.  When viewed in a text program like Wordpad or MS Word we can see what the lines contain.  Here is an excerpt from a sample .LFP load file (as seen in in Wordpad):

IM,D0022,D,0,@DISK001;DATA\IMAGES00;D0022.TIF;2,0
IM,D0023,D,0,@DISK001;DATA\IMAGES00;D0023.TIF;2,0
IM,D0024, ,0,@DISK001;DATA\IMAGES00;D0024.TIF;2,0
IM,D0025,D,0,@DISK001;DATA\IMAGES00;D0025.TIF;2,0

This particular load file contains information about document images.  Litigation support software programs can read this file and know:

  1. the record identifier (usually the bates number) of a document
  2. where one document ends and another begins
  3. where to find the scanned paper .TIF files associated with a document

There may be times when you will receive multiple types of load files within the same set of documents.  Some of the files may contain the same information, but are designed to work with different database programs.  When working with vendors, let them know what litigation support database programs you intend to use so that they give you compatible load files. 

In the event you receive load files that are not designed for your database program, you may need to convert the file to make it compatible.  Fortunately there are a few free load file conversion programs available.  Two such programs are: 

    1. ReadyConvert from Compiled Services (compiledservices.com)
    2. iConvert+ from IPRO Tech (iprotech.com)

    To find out more about how load files can best be used interact with your existing litigation support applications refer to the help and support documents of the program.  Quite often, these are the best resource for describing how load files interact with the case database and will often demonstrate the load file import process.