Recommendations for ESI Discovery in Federal Criminal Cases

The Administrative Office/Department of Justice Joint Working Group on Electronic Technology (JETWG) has announced the development of a recommended ESI protocol for use in federal criminal cases. Entitled “Recommendations for Electronically Stored Information (ESI) Discovery Production in Federal Criminal Cases“, it is the product of a collaborative effort between representatives from the Defender Services program and DOJ and it has DOJ leadership’s full support.

The primary purpose of the ESI protocol is to facilitate more predictable, cost-effective, and efficient management of electronic discovery and a reduction in the number of disputes relating to ESI. What this means for federal defenders and the CJA panel is that there is now a mechanism, through a meet and confer process, to address problems a receiving party might have with an ESI production early in a case, and to discuss the form of the discovery that they receive. The participants on both sides of JETWG are intimately familiar with the day-to-day challenges attorneys face in criminal cases, and the protocol reflects a pragmatic approach to the problems both prosecutors and defense attorneys face when dealing with electronic discovery.

The protocols were negotiated and drafted over an 18-month period by JETWG which has representatives from the Federal Defender Offices, CJA Panel, Office of Defender Services, and DOJ, with liaisons from the United States Judiciary. Andrew Goldsmith, the DOJ National Criminal Discovery Coordinator, and I (Sean Broderick) serve as co-chairs. Donna Elm, Federal Public Defender for the Middle District of Florida, Doug Mitchell, CJA Panel Attorney District Representative for the District of Nevada, Bob Burke, Chief of the Training Branch for Office of Defender Services, and Judy Mroczka, Chief of the Legal and Policy Branch for Office of Defender Services round out the membership on the Defender Services side of the joint working group.

The ESI protocol was directly impacted by input provided by FDO and CJA panel attorneys, FDO technology staff, paralegals, investigators in the field. In addition, we received comments and input on draft versions of the Recommendations from different working groups compromised of Federal Defenders and CJA panel representatives (just as DOJ did on their side).

The Recommendations consist of four parts:

  1. an Introduction containing underlying principles, with hyperlinks to related recommendations and strategies; 
  2. the Recommendations themselves; 
  3. Strategies and Commentary that address technical and logistical issues in more detail and provide specific advice on discovery exchange challenges; and 
  4. an ESI Discovery Production Checklist.

In general, the agreement is designed to encourage early discussion of electronic discovery issues through “meet and confers,” the exchange of data in industry standard or reasonably useable formats, notice to the court of potential discovery issues, and resolution of disputes without court involvement where possible.

We are excited about this announcement. Although almost all information is now created and stored electronically, the discovery provisions of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure are largely silent on this issue. At the same time there is a void because criminal cases, just like civil cases, are impacted by our shift from a paper to a digital-based society. We believe that this is an important step towards addressing the ESI challenges that people can face in a federal criminal case, if not now, certainly in the future.

We expect to continue the collaborative process with DOJ, and look forward to an ongoing dialogue with people in the field who are dealing with electronic discovery.

PDF link: Recommendations for Electronically Stored Information (ESI) Discovery Production in Federal Criminal Cases

Posted in ESI

DeMystifying De-NIST

With ever rising volumes of discovery data, increasingly legal teams are looking for solutions that can assist them manage the amount of data they need to review.  In circumstances where significant amounts of ESI (Electronically Stored Information) and forensic images of hard drives are involved, one common method is to “De-NIST” discovery data sets.  “De-NIST”ing can be a significant time and money saver and an important part of the discovery review process.

So what the heck does “De-NIST” mean?  

NIST is the acronym for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (website www.nsrl.nist.gov).  One of NIST’s projects is the National Software Reference Library.  This project is designed to identify and collect software from various sources and create a Reference Data Set (RDS).  The RDS is a collection of digital signatures of known, traceable software applications. 

A digital signature is like a digital fingerprint (it is also commonly referred to as a hash value).  In theory, every file has a unique hash value.  If two files have the same hash value they are considered duplicates.  

Most software applications are comprised of multiple files.  For example: when Adobe Acrobat Reader is installed there are hundreds of standard files copied to a computer’s hard drive.   All of these standard install files are the same (i.e., they have identical hash values) no matter what computer they reside on.  A typical computer contains hundreds of software applications.  The files associated with running these applications are not user generated and hold little evidentiary value for litigation purposes.  The NIST list is a database that contains over 28 Million of these file signatures.

De-NIST”ing is the process of identifying these files so that a decision can be made if they should be set aside or removed from a discovery database.  The NIST list is compared to the file signatures of the data sets within the discovery.  Any file that has a signature that matches one in the NIST list can be “De-NIST”ed (identified or removed) from the collection. 

While many legal review teams expect the De-NIST process to get rid of every application or system file within a data collection it is important to note that the NIST list does not contain every single system file.  Though it may not remove all of the system files, it can significantly reduce the dataset, especially when working with with copies of hard drive images. 

When presented with an overwhelming river of information, trying to find relevant information can feel like you’re panning for gold.  De-NIST’ing can help to identify or get rid of the much of the water, stones and muck and leave you with a much more manageable pan.   

Posted in ESI

Scanned Paper (part IV)

Objective Coding:

“Who, What, When” will help you figure out “Where and How”

One definition of the word objective I found online is:

“uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices; presented factually”. 

This is accurate when it comes to the objective coding of documents in the not so objective world of litigation.  While you may believe that having OCR for .pdfs or associated text for .tiffs gives you the searching capabilities that you need, having documents objectively coded will really allow you to refine those searches and hone in on the specific documents you are looking for. 

OCR and associated text allows you to search for keywords through the entire text of the document, whereas objective coding allows you to choose specific fields where the name, word or date you are looking for exists.  You also are allowed to create a list of document types (i.e. Email, Financial Record, Police Report, Memo, etc.) specific to your case so that you can identify a specific subset of documents for review.  You can also combine information found in different fields to even further refine your search. 

The standard objective coding fields are:

  1. Author
  2. Recipient
  3. Copyee
  4. Date
  5. Title
  6. Document Type

________________________________________________________________________

For example:

Your search results for a document authored by “John Smith” on “January 1, 2010” would differ tremendously depending on whether you used OCR or objective coding to run your search. 

If you only used OCR for your search, you would find every single document that not only was authored by “John Smith” but in which his name appears.  You would also retrieve every document in which “January 1, 2010″ appears, even if it was simply mentioned in the body of the text.  This could result in an unwieldy subset of documents and not really help you identify the particular subset of documents you are looking for. 

However, if your documents were objectively coded, you could simply search in the Author field for “John Smith” and in the Date field for “January 1, 2010” and find any documents that specifically fit that criteria. 

________________________________________________________________________

If you don’t get objective coding with your discovery, ask for it.  Objective coding contains objective information – facts, not opinions or ideas about a document.  Opposing counsel would not be revealing any information about their case, about their case strategy or about the strengths and weaknesses of the discovery by sharing any objective coding they have done.  No privilege would be breached and no attorney work product would be turned over.  Rather, a win-win situation is created when the cost of capturing factual information that will equally help both parties organize and review the discovery is shared. 

Up next:

Part V: Running a Document Inventory

Scanned Paper (part III)

Unitization:

Where One Document Ends, Another Always Begins

When you receive a set of scanned documents as part of your discovery, you should be able to visualize how those documents were kept in the original custodian’s desk drawer.  You should be able to identify which documents were kept together within a file folder or binder and where one document ends and the next begins.  Being able to recognize the order and organization of your discovery means that the documents were properly unitized.  

Having properly unitized documents is key to being able to effectively review scanned discovery.  You can efficiently move from one document to the next, as well as get a sense of how the documents relate to each other.  It is almost impossible to only work with just loose pages, so you should always ask for discovery to be produced to you with its proper unitization. 

Keep in mind there are two types of unitization: 

1. Physical Breaks:

A document can simply be defined by its physical breaks.  This includes staples, paper clips, binders, folders, etc.  Unitization by physical breaks is usually done at the time of scanning, as the scanning operator is able to see where the breaks exist.  If you choose to unitize documents by their physical breaks, no relationships between documents are captured but it will be clear where one document ends and the next begins. 

2. Logical Document Determination (LDD):

What is logical about a stack of paper that has sat in somebody’s desk for years you might ask?  Whether we want to admit it or not, the way those documents were kept is often a major part of the story a litigation team is trying to tell.  A common way to describe documents that are related is to say they are part of a family of documents. 

for example:

If you know that a spreadsheet was clipped to a memo, even though the memo made no mention of any attached spreadsheet, you have learned a telling piece of information about the relationship between those documents.

 

If the documents are given to you with a load file, the load file will act as your roadmap.  Typically, a production of single page .tiffs that would reflect a huge stack of loose paper if printed are accompanied by a load file that lays out where the document breaks are.  If the documents have been logically unitized, the load file will also identify the parentchild attachments.

If the documents are not unitized when you receive them, you may want to contact the source and ask them for a untized set.  If the source does not have a unitized set, the best option is typically to contact a litigation vendor who is familiar with the process of unitization.  They usually have teams of people trained in using software specifically designed to create document breaks as well as identify document families.

Up next:

Part IV: Objective Coding – “Who, What, When” will help you figure out “Where and How”

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)
  • 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.

LexisNexis offers CJA panel attorneys the CaseMap / TimeMap / DocManger bundle for a special reduced price of $580.00.  Contact PMsales@lexisnexis.com (email) for assistance and questions.  Make sure to mention that you are a CJA attorney and that you are interested in CaseMap products at the special discounted rate.

_______________________________________________________________________

TrialDirector

TrialDirector is one of the most popular electronic courtroom presentation software programs, and FDO and CJA panel attorneys have been using it in trial and evidentiary hearings for many years. TrialDirector allows attorneys to do multimedia presentations in court, including presenting imaged documents, document highlighting, document callout and zooming, cropping, annotating, multiple zoom capabilities, side by side exhibit comparison, playing audio and video, and the playing of synchronized audio/video transcripts. It allows for the importation and organization of case files including exhibits, documents, images, videotaped depositions, deposition transcripts, synchronized deposition transcripts and can be synchronized with document review databases.

inData offers CJA panel attorneys TrialDirector at a 50% discount, currently $397.50, plus a mandatory software maintenance fee of $159, for a total of $556.50 (compared to the regular price of $954 for a license and maintenance). To purchase TrialDirector, contact inData sales directly at 800-828-8292.  Inform them that you are a CJA attorney and that you are interested in the TrialDirector software at the special CJA rate.  There is also a 2016 CJA Panel Letter from Derek Miller, President and CEO of inData, describing the specifics of their offer to CJA panel attorneys.

_______________________________________________________________________

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 at 510-637-3500.

The Role of a Coordinating Discovery Attorney

“I solve problems…”  

We all have our favorite lines from the Quentin Tarantino movie, Pulp Fiction.  Mine is from the scene where Winston Wolfe, played by Harvey Keitel, arrives to clean up a mess caused by the accidental discharge of John Travolta’s handgun.  As lawyers, we’re called upon to “solve problems” and help clean up messes.  For me, it includes addressing how to handle terabytes of data that may include hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, tens of thousands of emails, hundreds of email attachments, tens of thousands of wire taps, body wires, GPS longitude and latitude data, hundreds of photos and many hours of video. 

But as investigative methods become more sophisticated, so do the means to cull through and organize massive amounts of discovery.  Picking the right tool is the key to “solving problems”.  It might mean creating sortable spreadsheets or retaining the services of state-of-the art web-based document repositories. 

For example, on multiple-defendant drug cases, we recommend using Excel spreadsheets to create sortable indices.  One of the spreadsheets is for the line sheets and corresponding wiretap audio files.  The other spreadsheet is for the remainder of the discovery and can include documents, photos, videos and body wire recordings.  Counsel can sort by defendant name, date, call number or any other subject for which we have entered information.  Each discovery item is hyperlinked to the spreadsheet; just sort down to a particular grouping and click on the hyperlink.  The document displays, audio plays or photograph opens. 

For fraud cases, which often include hundreds of thousands of pages of documents including emails, discovery can be hosted and accessed using an online document database.  Multiple defense team members can access, search, sort and identify documents simultaneously using sophisticated search features.  Online database programs have capacities to manage huge amounts of discovery – far greater than any desktop application.  They also have features to help find key documents, tag them for their importance and even save them for later review. 

I can help solve your problems.  I am a CJA Panel Attorney in Seattle, Washington.  I am under contract with the Administrative Office of U.S. Court, Office of Defender Services as a Coordinating Discovery Attorney (“CDA”) to support your work on multi-defendant prosecutions involving large amounts of discovery.  My job is to help you strategize and implement ways to use technology to create cost effective ways to better represent clients in massive discovery cases for CJA panel attorneys and FDO staff across the country. 

I evaluate each lawyer’s level of computer sophistication; identify the types of discovery involved; assist in determining how best to distribute the discovery; determine what technology and other resources are necessary for discovery review and management; and help in maintaining quality control of the discovery review process. 

I focus on a limited number of cases each year that have been identified by the National Litigation Support Team (“NLST”) as needing a CDA, whether due to the complexity of the matter, the number of parties involved, or the nature and/or volume of the discovery.  After an initial consultation with the NLST, and a second one with me, a decision will be made about the use of my services. 

The factors that are considered in determining whether a CDA should work on a particular case are:

  • Whether the number of co-defendants is so large as to create a risk of costly duplicative efforts, which could otherwise be eliminated or reduced upon the appointment of a CDA, or whether there are other factors that create a likelihood that the CDA’s participation would enable costs to be contained;
  • Whether the volume of discovery is so large that addressing the Organizational needs in the case would interfere with defense counsel’s ability to address the legal and factual issues in a case;
  • Whether unusual organizational or technological issues exist, not commonly found even in complex cases, that would interfere with defense counsel’s ability to address the legal and factual issues in a case;
  • Whether the case is prosecuted in a region that lacks experts who can provide necessary technology support and document management expertise in addressing the factors described above;
  • Whether the timing of the request, which preferably should be made early in a case, is such that the CDA’s participation is likely to be of assistance to defense counsel, promote efficiency, and contain costs; and,
  • The CDA’s workload.

All these factors need not be present.  Any final determination will be made by the National Litigation Support Administrator.  In determining how much weight to provide each factor, the seriousness of the alleged offense will be factored into any decision.

If approved, CJA panel counsel then petitions the court for my appointment.  By having the court appoint, I will have standing to confer directly with the prosecution on issues of discovery, which allows for better coordination and overall cost-efficiencies regarding information exchange.  I will examine the discovery and propose a plan of action.  If counsel agrees, we’re on our way.  If outside services are necessary, the proposed services of vendors will be evaluated and competitive price quotes obtained.  I will recommend to the court the proposed strategy and petition for the necessary funds.  Throughout the project, work will be monitored to make sure it is being performed properly and in an expeditious manner. 

Russell M. Aoki,

Coordinating Discovery Attorney

If you have any questions regarding the services of a CDA, please contact either:

Posted in ESI

Scanned Paper (part II)

Searchable Scanned Documents
Can you Really Find that Needle in the Haystack?

Searchable PDFs

PDFs are typically just images. Hard to believe, when we think about all the things we can do with a PDF, including using it to create forms that can be filled out electronically and having it act as a container to hold a variety of other document formats.  Scanned paper only becomes searchable if it has been OCRed.

What is OCR, you might ask?

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition.  I know that’s not of much help but two of my goals is to provide you with interesting dinner conversation and obscure words to answer the latest Geek version of Trivial Pursuit.  The third, and most practical goal is to allow you to communicate amongst your team and with vendors about getting your PDFs into a searchable format.

The process of having a document OCRed is actually quite miraculous and the technical aspects can get quite complex.  What is most important to note is that OCRing a PDF allows the text on the PDF to be captured and layered underneath the image in such a way that the text on the image is now searchable.  However, there is always a chance that the OCR within a document can be of poor quality, making the searching of the text inaccurate.

Why might you get poor quality OCR, you ask? 

Most likely, it has to do with the quality of the document being scanned into PDF, but here are some additional reasons to consider:

  • handwriting; the original paper is of poor quality (i.e., photocopy of a photocopy of a fax)
  • scanned in grayscale instead of black and white
  • scanned at a low resolution
  • black and white documents scanned as color
  • foreign language
  • graphics or lines on the page
  • size of font and type of font on the original document
  • …there are always more…

 

TIFFs with Associated Text Files

TIFFs are a lot like pictures or static images.  Unlike PDFs, the text seen on a TIFF can only be captured in a separate file called an Associated Text File, and the image and the text can only be married together to make the TIFF searchable in applications we like to call Evidence Review Platforms (ERPs). 

TIFFs can come as single page documents or multi-page documents.  If they come as single page documents, the only way you would know where one document ends and the next begins is by looking at a load file that uses document ID numbers to identify those document breaks.  Again, load files are designed to be interpreted in an ERP alongside your set of single page TIFFs, and when all of those pieces of information are put together, you are able to move, within the ERP, from one document to the next as well as search through the captured text. 

However, just like the OCR of a PDF, Associated Text Files can vary in quality depending on the quality of the TIFF, the quality of the program used to create the Associated Text File and many other factors.  With all these moving parts, it is hard to really review TIFFs efficiently without some sort of specialized application – like an ERP.  However, once TIFFs are placed into an ERP, the load file and the Associated Text File fall right into place and allow you to perform text searches and to move fairly easily from one document to the next.

Up next:

Part III: Unitization – Where One Document Ends, Another Begins…

Scanned Paper (part I)

Does a Picture Really Speak a Thousand Words?
(part of an ongoing series about scanned paper)

Whether we like it or not, technology is not only becoming part of the legal world, but oftentimes taking it over by storm.  Where we once received paper, we now receive .tiffs, .pdfs and native files.  Where we once could organize the paper in binders or boxes, we now use a combination of tools to view, search, organize and review our much more voluminous and complex set of discovery on our computers because there is just simply too much material to print out. 

In adapting to the influx of electronic discovery, we have to realize that not all electronic discovery is created equal.  Native files such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets come with a host of information about the file as part of its metadata (a topic we will cover later in our series), while paper that has been scanned and turned into electronic discovery in formats such as .tiff and .pdf are really just pictures of the pieces of paper we once clipped, stapled and three-hole punched.  We can now do more to those pieces of paper once they have been scanned, but keep in mind that they are just pictures of the real thing and unlike the native files we get, these pictures don’t really say as much as we want them to.

 Things to consider: 

  • Is the document searchable?  Is there associated text with the .tiffs and have the .pdfs been OCRed?  If not, should you consider having the documents OCRed?
  • Are the documents unitized?  Do you know where one document ends and the next one begins?  Is there a load file that shows you the document breaks?  If not, should you consider unitization?
  • Was there objective coding done?  Is there a load file that provides you with the objective coding?  If not, should you consider objective coding? 
  • Should you run a document inventory to get a better handle on the various file formats that may be included in the discovery?  Are there color images?  Will you need to take that into consideration when you need to print the documents?  Are there formats that require you to have the associated application in order for you to view the document or database? Are there load files included that may contain objective coding?  
  • Do you already have programs that you are currently using that can handle the viewing, organization and review of scanned paper?  Can it handle one format and not another (i.e. Adobe can handle .pdfs but not .tiffs)?  Do you need to convert your scanned paper into one format that you can handle?  If you don’t already have a program, then what types of programs should you consider?

Up next:

Part II: Searchable Scanned Documents
Can you Really Find that Needle in the Haystack?

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.

Do Jurors and Judges Really Need to See Your Evidence?

The answer is yes, and courtroom presentation software can help you do it.

Not only do they need to see or hear it, but they need to understand, retain and recall it.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in an era where audiences expect a multi-media show every time they sit for a presentation.  Jurors and judges are no different, whether they are in a small town or a large city.  The question for trial lawyers becomes how do they present the facts of their case, and their client’s story, but do it in a way that grabs people’s attention?  We believe that courtroom presentation software should be an integral part of your litigation support toolbox.

While there may be a certain charm to writing with chalk on a blackboard or placing a piece of paper on an Elmo (a document camera), these options limit how a lawyer can present evidence in the courtroom.  For example, an attorney can only put a piece of paper on an Elmo if they have that piece of paper readily available, but they have no control over what part of that document the fact finder is focusing on during the evidence presentation.

A lawyer can only write so quickly, or so much, on a whiteboard/chalkboard, and the marked-up document may not get entered as an exhibit or taken back to the jury room.

With trial presentation software, an attorney can have available to present in court the critical evidence they want, as long as the documents, videos or audio files have been pre-loaded onto a laptop they plan to use at the hearing, motion or trial.

What is courtroom presentation software? It is a program that allows you to pull up a document for the jury/judge to view and blow up a word, line or paragraph on which the attorney wants the jury/judge to focus.  An example of such a program that is specifically designed for use in the courtroom is TrialDirector.  Besides the above example, TrialDirector is a media player, giving you the ability to pause a portion of a video or audio file for emphasis.

A lawyer using TrialDirector can compare documents side-by-side or point out important differences/similarities in documentary, photographic or video evidence.  TrialDirector can also be your virtual trial binder, allowing you to organize your materials for quick and easy presentation in the courtroom.  All of these techniques can be done with just a few keystrokes.

Another common presentation program that has been adapted for use in the courtroom is PowerPoint.  You should have it or something similar in your toolbox but be aware, it does not give you the same level of flexibility and access to your evidence as a courtroom presentation program such as TrialDirector.  For example, with PowerPoint, each slide must be prepared in advance with fixed text or images whereas with a courtroom presentation software, you can show any file that has been loaded into the program on the fly.

We believe that these various presentation tools should be used to enhance, not replace, an attorney’s advocacy on behalf of their clients.  But as a sign of the times, courtroom presentation software is now so commonplace that there are even presentation apps for use with iPads and other tablet PCs.

Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel attorneys can take advantage of a special offer provided by inData and purchase a copy of TrialDirector at a discounted price.  Additionally, the Office of Defender Services offers technology related training events that specifically focus on PowerPoint and TrialDirector.  These workshops have no fees for attendance and are open to all CJA panel attorneys and Federal Defender staff.  For those of you who are interested, the next workshop will be held in Providence, Rhode Island, July 21-23 and there are still a few spaces available.  Details about the workshop and registration information can be found on fd.org.