by: Kenneth G. Raggio
Compare a new courtroom of a courtroom of ten or twenty years ago. Note the gadgets there, which have cables to connect to surprise! a computer!!
While relatively view family law cases will have the need or the funding for the pizzazz or punch of an aviation or antitrust case or audience appreciates the combining of sight and sound.
- Some Obvious and Easy Uses.
a. Display PDF images of documents
b. Playing of video deposition excerpts from DVD
c. Marshalling Evidence
d. Produce and Display an Analysis of Evidence in Trial
e. Adapting Evidence to the Facts of Trial
f. Creating a time
g. Assisted Opening Statement
h. Organizing Yourself and Your Case
For simplicity, a few will be discussed in detail.
THE ASSISTED OPENING STATEMENT
- Who is Your Audience?
The Judge has been hearing “the same old story” for a long time, for a lot of weeks and months, in a lot of hearings in cases, and a lot of trials. While the Judge will do her best to put the pieces together as the trial unfolds, the best time to put your case forward is an effective, well planned opening statement. Show the Judge why your case is worth listening to and why your position is meritorious.
An effective opening statement will combine sight and sound to break up the monotony that is the Judge’s curse of “lawyers talking”.
The “assisted” opening statement entails using technology to assist you in your presentation. A simple form is merely a typewritten listing of the high points of the case, of the witnesses, expected testimony, legal disagreements, and perhaps even a suggested division shared with the Judge and opposing counsel. This is a fairly mundane, yet potentially effective presentation. Using print of slides or overheads are a variation on the same theme.
However, computer tools have become more powerful and easier to use to where even sophisticated technology is now not only “lawyer proof” but is “lawyer friendly”. The name brand of a computer, or a software package or camera doesn’t really matter; they are all variation on the same theme of creating a “multi-media presentation” package. The components of a multi-media package include:
1) notebook computer with dvd/cd burner, video and digital inputs/outputs;
2) Presentation software such as PowerPoint or Presentations;
3) Digital still camera;
4) Mini- DV camcorder;
5) speciality timeline/charting software;
7) fast internet access.
Not all tools will be used in all cases, so when planning your assisted opening statement go through the analysis that you would make with any open statement:
- What do I want the Judge to know about my case?
- What is unique about my case?
- What egregious facts/positions can I demonstrate on the opposing party?
- How can I combine sight and sound to demonstrate this?
- How can I make my presentation bulletproof?
- Can I get my entire presentation completed within the Court’s allocated time limits?
- Does the Court have equipment on site that I can use ?
Our friends in the P.I. practice have pioneered the use of tools for us; many P.I. lawyers have even formed their own A.V./litigation support firms to specially produce major presentations. If your budget and/or fear factor support it, get professional help. Otherwise, combining of some or all of the following elements can make a compelling presentation:
- a video clip with a damning statement (“her job in those early years was primarily to screw me”)
- images of documents with blown up of key phrases, highlighted
- Timeline of events.
- Factors indicating why the Court should rule your way on particular issues including attorney’s fees.
- Be accurate in your depiction
- Be sure your key assertions will be covered by competent, admissible evidence
- Don’t oversell
• Have your script prepared to read, and handouts of your images and slides as backup if your high tech show crashes for any reasons.
Showing the Judge what is going on from your perspective as the case starts many times can help determine the outcome of the proceedings in a favorable manner.
- Demonstration (the Technology God Willing) will include:
- Smoking Gun Video clip and/or blow up of key deposition transcript text
- Blow up of key documentary evidence highlighted
- Suggested disposition
USING AN OUTLINER TO ORGANIZE YOU AND YOUR CASE
All of us have been in cases that no matter how good our memory, our recall, or our intelligence-we get stuff confused. The more complicated the case is factually the harder it is to keep up.
Back in the 80s there were elegant, simple outlining tools such as Think Tank (for DOS) and Grandview (for Windows), but most outliner software has now been absorbed in a rudimentary form into Word and WordPerfect.
However, CaseSoft’s Notemap is the first “modern” outliner that has the power, ease of use, and ability to import into the outline what you have already done elsewhere that you need. It is it an easy to use, yet powerful tool.
The idea of an outliner is to be able to instantly toggle between components of the “big picture” of a case, yet be able to drill down to the minutia with just a few clicks. For about $100.00, Notemap contains the power that most of us will need, and without the steep learning curve of litigation support systems such as Summation or CaseMap.
- What Notemap Helps You to Do.
A. It allows you to put down easy simple thoughts, issues, witnesses, to do, Petitioner’s Exhibits, etc,) and to be able to look at all those together, or drill down to any smaller detail. Screen 1 below shows a typical screen at the top level, with each of the major portions of the case being described in one line.
B. The software will allow you to move parts of the outline to insert full complex documents into the outline and do a host of other useful activities with existing documents. For instance, if you have created a word processing list of documents, you can import that list either as a document that can be recalled, or import the list into the outline and it will operate as a list.
C. Screen 2 shows a partial break down of one of the top level outline headings-entities. In this particular case with the similarity of names of ownership and of property holdings it is important to make sure that one is dealing with the right entity with this particular facts.
D. Screen 3 shows even more detail that there could be added on one particular entity. Again, a whole document could be inserted here as well as comments and hidden notes underneath each outline note or document.
- Using It
The software comes on a CD or can be downloaded from the www.CaseSoft.com website. It is available on a trial demonstration basis with a thirty day license.
The live demonstrations will show how easy and powerful this tool is to use. Outliners in general and Notemap in particular represent easy to master, useful tools to help us have thinking “back up” for the advice we render and the positions we take.
The demonstrations are worth watching especially for those NOT technology inclined. Those need to see what they can get their young associates to do for them, and also have an appreciation for the level of sophistication that is probably being already applied by the other side in complex cases. If you are only reading this article, and were not able to attend the live demonstration, it is worth your while to download Notemap and try it out for the free 30 day period.
Many courts now have public or subscription wi-fi.
This obviously expands the possibilities of getting “reinforcement” from outside the immediate computer in the courtroom while in trial, to the extent of even revising displayed documents/timelimes almost in real time as evidence is admitted.
An effective way to combine sight and sound through the trier of facts in both child custody and financial cases is to use a timeline.
Timemap, by the makers of Notemap is a slick little tool for creating and presenting timelines. Clearly timelines are useful in both property and in child custody cases. Sometimes continued projection of the timeline to the court (and keeping it moving in events as time progresses), can help the trier of fact stay focus on where we are in the offer of proof.
The leading, and easiest product to use is Timemap from Casesoft which is now owned by Lexis-Nexis. It is available online at www.casesoft.com for download and a free trial for thirty days and can be licenses for approximately $100.00 after that.
Usage for such a timeline include:
- having the timeline displayed “in background” during a significant portion of the testimony. It helps keep the trier of fact focused on exactly where we are and the proof
- in a property case to show the relationships of the two contending fact patterns.
- With creative use of a very long timeline, being able to show the relative insignificant amount of time that events or occurrences were (in other words show a particular event with insignificant “geologic time” of the case.
- By using different color codes for the various players be able to show the actions/reactions that may help prove your point.
Virtually all computer tools have matured to the point that even their elementary use can be of some assistance to the attorney in pretrial and in trial. Putting the time in to become a little more conversant with a tool or two has an expansionary greater yield, even if the tool is utilized only in one case. Effective use in “one” case soon becomes a “few” cases, and many times use becomes almost “routine”. Until you try to utilize some of the power, do not be surprised when effective use by your opponent may be determinative of your case. 10/13/2010