Conferences CTC2009

Last day at CTC2009

This morning’s plenary session, Be Prepared: Ensuring the Continuity of Court Operations During an Emergency, began with a description of the effect of the flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa had on the courts.  They learned it is best to plan before a disaster hits rather than during.  The panelists each discussed important elements of a plan including the special considerations that must be made for pandemics.  I would recommend viewing this on the NCSC website if only for the video about the Iowa flood.

The use of A2J, HotDocs, and online chat were the technologies discussed in the program Technology that Enables Self Help Centers: Solutions to Increasing Demands in a Time of Austerity.  The presentation of this program was unique as the presentation utilized A2J as a learning tool.  This program was reassuring in that public law libraries were listed as one of the locations where the New York DIY forms can be accessed and that LiveHelp web chat was based on the California Law Libraries AskNow Live Chat service.  The Live Chat was illustrated with a picture of the Sacramento Public Law Library webpage.  Good answers to that question: “why have a law library?”  This program will be available on the NCSC website soon.

Online access to CTC2009 video streams mentioned above at the NCSC website: (Registration is required.)

After lunch in the exhibit hall as I was trying to decide on the next program to attend I noticed that the sun was shining and decided to just go outside.  I could see the mountains, some with snow.  It is a really beautiful city.  I rode the 16th Street hybrid bus to the park along the river and stopped in the Tattered Cover bookstore.  On my return bus ride I ran into Madeline from the 10th Circuit Library.  It was fun to see someone I knew especially since I had been disappointed that I had no time to try and visit Denver law libraries while I was here.

I did return for a final program.  Simple (and  Cheap) Tips for Making Your Web Site User Friendly listed some basic principles of design:  think like your audience, people don’t read but scan and following convention is a good idea.  Conventions for web pages include logos go in the top left corner, search boxes in the right and important information goes above the scroll line.  Some of the tips for design were the “rule of seven” limiting the number of navigation buttons, having a header that shows for the information below the scroll line and use of bread crumb navigation.  The session ended with critiques of volunteer websites.

The speaker, Susan Finkelpearl of Free Range Studios, gave us this ink to more tips in their Technology White Papers:

The slides from this program and all of the CTC programs will soon be available on the NCSC website.  You can find a future link on the CTC blog: to the CTC conference site

Conferences CTC2009

CTC2009 Question: why have a law library?

The topic for this morning’s plenary session was Leading in State Courts: The Unique Challenges Facing Leaders of Loosely Coupled Systems. The moderator, Dr. Mal O’Connor,  began the program with the discussion of the differences between command and control systems and loosely coupled systems.  Many courts are the latter with many different entities working within the system to reach the same goal but with no clearly defined head in charge of the whole court.  All systems are social and technical with the loosely coupled system having its own set of challenges.  System wide change is understandably difficult for such a court system with tensions and contradictions seen in the relationship between the appointed and the elected,  judicial and legislative interests, trial and appellate courts, and between standardized practices versus localized practices.  The challenge to leadership involves the ability to protect and guide.  Fairness, collaboration and the sharing of information are key to success.

After the discussion of systems, there was a panel discussing change in terms of the introduction of technology projects in the courts.  What got my attention was the comment by Karl Heckart, Chief Information Officer for the Arizona Judicial Branch, that now technology drives the business and as such acts as an equalizer.  He stated that with the introduction of technology we have to ask ourselves questions such as: why do we have a law library or why do we have court reporters?  Needless to say that was all I could think about as the panel discussion turned to the implementation of court technology such as case management systems and e-ticket programs.  We were directed to discuss technology implementation projects in our own courts with those sitting next to us and then report those questions or problems to the panel.  No one took them up on the reporting request but now I wish I had been able to break away from my seat mate discussion group to answer that library question.

I could have at least said that libraries provide access to justice through access to information.  And, that although the nature of the source of some of that information may have changed, the role of the library with professional librarian remains the same: access to the information necessary to solve a legal problem or question.  Electronic information is not necessarily easier to access by nature of it being on the Internet, especially so for the ever increasing self represented litigants that law libraries serve every day. Librarians assist in the navigation and evaluation of  legal information no matter the format.  Law libraries are evolving as self-help center partners or even self-help centers in fact.  It should be clear that a court has a law library because of the valuable services provided there.

Later, at lunch I had to answer a deputy clerk’s question as to whether my library had any books any more.  Before I could answer, the clerk of that court stated that I should have gotten rid of them all.  (She was even older than I am.)  So, I had my chance to explain that we still have books even though we have Westlaw and Lexis and that no matter the format the librarian is necessary in the efficient use of any of those  tools.

It is important that I convey as much as possible the value of a law library to the court while I am here to everyone I meet.   All court law librarians should be on a constant campaign to make sure their courts are aware of that value.  Any court that does not have a law library should feel like they are really missing out on something.

Conferences CTC2009

Social Media and the Courts: CTC2009

Keynote speaker, Ari Shapiro, NPR Justice Correspondent, did a great job making the case for the use of social media like Twitter, blogs and Facebook by the courts.  You can hear for yourself how (Twitter to announce new court opinions) and why (public interest and transparency) courts should make use of these new technologies.  The video replay is already available on the CTC 2009 Blog through the NCSC CTC Conference Video Streams.

The program, The Role of Social Networking Tools for the Courts, continued the social networking topic.  The speakers, both from LexisNexis, Christine O’Clock and Travis Olson, started with the basics by defining and describing three of these new technologies, blogs, Twitter and Facebook.  But first they dealt with the why.  They cited a number of reasons: people trust the more personal word of mouth information, people are already talking about the court, awareness in order to avoid pitfalls, traditional media is being replaced by social media and engagement for the development of better relationships with the legal community and the public.

Blogs can bring new audiences for court information resulting in a better understanding of the courts by the public.  Blogs are not as static as a website and can be updated quickly and frequently and can put a more personal face on the court.  The Las Vegas Clark County blog was presented as good example of a court blog.

Twitter was described a great way to listen to the world around you.  It allows for the broadcast of real time announcements and can be used to drive awareness to other sites and tools.  They liked the way the Superior Court of Fulton County Georgia(@FultonCourtInfo) had announcements and real time information on Twitter that linked to the court blog and website.  A search for CTC tweets brought up the tweets of law librarian richards1000 who was recognized for his contributions in the legal Twitter sphere.

Facebook can present the courts perspective, discuss and listen.  New Jersey courts are on Facebook where they have links to news, photos from court events, announcements and links to Youtube videos.

The program concluded with a discussion of how social technology can be implemented for judges, court administration, PR offices and Clerks of Court.  All should make awareness and self education the first step.  It is a good practice to monitor the technolgies for discussions of court cases or issues.  Judges’ awareness allows the specific mention of the use of social media by jurors and witnesses and to develop media access policies.  In addition, court adminstration can develop internal staff use policies and create a strategic plan for outreach to increase court transparency using social media.  PR departments could add social media to the press release list.  The clerk’s office can post announcements, spotlight frequently asked questions or create a tour of the court’s work flow.

The best way to learn about these new technologies is to jump right in and sign up and see how it all works for yourself.

Conferences CTC2009


I am in Denver attending and reporting on the National Center for State Courts’ CTC2009 as the AALL Representatve to the NCSC.

My CTC2009 experience began this morning in the Wells Fargo Theater for the keynote speaker.  We entered the huge auditorium to U2’s “It’s a Beautiful Day.”  Our welcome to Denver included the statement that there are 300 sunny days per year in Denver but that we would not see any of them.  It is cold,  like in the 4o’s cold, and rainy.  I can’t say I am sorry that I am inside all day for programs. It works out just fine.

My first program, The Little Template That Could,  dealt with a trial note taking  free template developed in Ontario, Canada for use by judges. Upon entering the room I could see a large white bunny and wondered.  The bunny was part of a staged courtroom drama that showed real time note taking by a trial judge.  The bunny was the defendant.  The template can be adapted for individual judges and courts.  The judges who use it find that it allows them to focus on the case and to organize and retrieve the information in the note in a meaningful way.  It generates tables of exhibits, issues, names, and even a case chronology through the use of tags.  It can even be used with handwritten notes converted through the use of voice recognition software. The technology is simple and based on Microsoft Word 2003 or 2007.

The live demonstrations were interesting but what I found most interesting was the fact that judges take notes during a trial that they refer to when making a decision or writing an opinion.  Easy retrieval and access to the information in the notes later is important and this tool sounds like it can help.

The Process for Web Design Success program started with discussion of the NCSC new website that has just been unveiled.  Pam Burton, Web Content Editor, for the NCSC, outlined the steps in the process: define your goals, ask if the goals are the right goals, match resources with goals and define and track project milestones.  Chris Crawford is President of Justice Served who selects the top ten court websites.  Criteria for this award are reflection that the needs of the user are being met, use of interactive e-services, ease of navigation, aesthetics and services such as virtual tours or a kids’ page.  The Sacramento Superior Court is a four time winner of the award.  Susan Finkelpearl is the Online Strategy for Free Range Studios and she spoke from the design perspective.  She emphasized the importance of audience research and testing though surveys, formal and informal, not only when redesigning but every six weeks.

The day ended with the grand opening of the exhibit hall and reception.  The vendors are very different from what I am used to at AALL.  I did find Lexis and West as they were familiar faces.  They both have court knowledge management tools now.  The National Center has a large area in the middle of the exhibits that I will explore tomorrow.  I was able to introduce myself to NCSC reps and discuss the Center’s relationship with AALL.  So far, I have seen technology from Metatomix that allows for searching multiple law enforcement databases across jurisdictions and entities, jury management software, and e-filing and court case management that will not cost the court to use.  Tomorrow there will be theater presentations of vendor technologies.  I will get a better feel for the technology solutions available to courts then.

Social media was the subject of the keynote address and a program.  There will be a separate post for that report.