Taking a tablet for court

Just as Law Times reports on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s failure to get its various court technology efforts off the ground, some judges and lawyers are having success on a local level by introducing devices such as iPads into trial proceedings.

One lawyer in London, Ont., in fact, feels the tablet was helpful in securing a noteworthy award for a personal injury client last week.

“I’ve been looking for the opportunity to try it out,” says Daniel Mailer, of Cram & Associates.

He used his iPad last Tuesday while representing a child dog-bite victim. The day before, he called court services to let them know about his plan. The proposal surprised court staff, but they had a TV screen available the next day that could connect to his iPad.

In the end, Superior Court Justice Ian Leach awarded $60,000 in general damages, an amount Mailer says is above the normal range of $25,000 to $35,000 for facial scarring from a dog bite. He suspects the “graphic images” displayed through the iPad were helpful to his case.

“I was able to show these rather graphic pictures of the injuries to the client on a big-screen TV,” says Mailer.

“The impact was much stronger,” he adds. “I think it was a factor in what the judge decided to do.”

Projecting images in court isn’t new, of course, but Mailer feels the simplicity of having an application like Keynote for the iPad to present the images as well as the ease of carrying around a tablet will make a difference to lawyers in court.

“It’s almost like a PowerPoint presentation but PowerPoint for dummies like me,” he says of Keynote.

And others are using iPads in more extensive ways. According to Toronto court reporter Kim Neeson, a trial beginning in Toronto today will allow anyone with an Internet connection, a device, and an invitation to a secure platform to view the proceedings as they happen.

“This technology is truly wireless — there are absolutely no wires going from the court reporter’s work to the delivery of the real-time transcript on counsel’s receiving device,” says Neeson of the proceedings in Molson Canada 2005 v. Miller Brewing Co. that begin before Justice Frank Newbould.

“If counsel wish to use their own iPad, they simply download an app from the App Store and they are ready to go,” she adds.

The advantages of using the iPad, according to Neeson, include immediate access to court transcripts and allowing experts and clients to participate without being present.

“For court reporters who are used to carrying around a lot of extra laptops for counsel and the court’s viewing, this new technology lightens our load considerably because tablets are so much easier to cart around from place to place,” says Neeson, of Neeson & Associates Court Reporting and Captioning Inc.

“Additionally, the new technology offers a higher level of stability in the sending and receiving of text between the court reporter and counsel.”

Mailer, too, hopes use of the iPad will grow in Ontario courts as has already happened in some U.S. jurisdictions.

“My next move is to go wireless,” he says, noting iPads can also help in other areas such as loading and highlighting court transcripts.

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