May 10, 2010

Q&A: Court Ordered Debt

QUESTION:

On behalf of the California Administrative Office of the Courts, we would like to know if there are any courts in the United States that “sell” delinquent court-ordered fines, fees, penalties, and assessments. In specific, we are looking for criteria, and private vendors used, including pricing structure.

RESPONSES:

1. I asked one of my clients, a pre-eminent collections firm that also specializes in purchasing debt, how many government clients use this technique, and of those how many are courts. They replied that few (but a growing number) of government agencies are beginning to realize that this is a legitimate way to recover otherwise lost revenue, but the number of courts is painfully fewer.

Part of the reason is understandable ... the underlying nature of the debt has to be free of other legal encumbrances, such as terms and conditions of probation, drinking driver treatment program completions, etc., and ideally those debts that are dispositive solely by payment of the fine. This being said, that leaves a siginificant amount of court ordered debt that could or should fall into this category.

Since the street value and therefore the amount paid for old and uncollectable debt is low, it is best that courts exhaust all reasonable efforts to skip trace and otherwise seek compliance before this option is used. Thereafter, merely writing off the debt as a total loss is unwise if there is a way to recover some of the amount due.

2. Selling court debt that arises from a conviction for an offense is an appalling concept.

Generally, most court debt for an offense is discretionary, that is a judge exercised some discretion to establish the fine, etc., in a particular case. Generally, the court that entered the judgment retains the ability to exercise discretion in the interests of justice if the circumstances of the judgment debtor change following the entry of judgment. Typically it is a negative change in circumstances that is brought to the attention of the court in an enforcement action. The court may then adjust the debt to fit the new circumstance as appropriate.

Selling the judgment eliminates that discretion. While courts should vigorously enforce judgments entered for offenses, may even use private collection agencies, courts must also retain the discretion to deal appropriately judgment debtors in the interest of justice, not in the interest of a "bottom line."

3.And my recollection is that there is a [U.S.] Supreme Court decision that says in effect some who is fined must be given the equivalent of an installment plan (in the context of "you may not jail for failure to pay fine").**
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*In deference to privacy and confidentiality concerns expressed by some readers, all references to personal names in the above responses have been deleted. This however does not detract in any way from our appreciation of the professionalism and generosity of spirit exhibited by those participating in this discussion.


** In part of an exchange resulting from the above discussion, Patrick H. Scott, Court Services Division, Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts sent the following additional material related to the U.S. Supreme Court decision mentioned in the above Q & A discussion. In his e-mail Patrick said he found this information at Dictionary.com:

The U.S. Supreme Court has placed limits on incarceration for nonpayment of fines. In Williams v. Illinois, 399 U.S. 235, 90 S. Ct. 2018, 26 L. Ed. 2d 586 (1970), the defendant, Willie E. Williams, was convicted of petty theft and sentenced to one year in prison and a $500 fine, the maximum sentence allowed under the applicable statute. When Williams was unable to pay the fine upon completing his year in jail, he was kept incarcerated to "work off" the fine at a rate of $5 a day. Williams appealed, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no state may increase the sentence of a defendant beyond the maximum period specified by statute for failure to pay a fine.

Shortly after the Williams case, the Supreme Court ruled that a state may not convert a fine into incarceration if the conviction warrants only a fine. In Tate v. Short, 401 U.S. 395, 91 S. Ct. 668, 28 L. Ed. 2d 130 (1971), the defendant, Preston A. Tate, was unable to pay $425 in fines for traffic offenses and was committed to prison to work off his fine at a rate of $5 a day. The Supreme Court ruled that a state may not "impos[e] a fine as a sentence and then automatically conver[t] it into a jail term solely because the defendant is indigent and cannot forthwith pay the fine in full."

Neither the Williams ruling nor the Tate ruling prevents a court from imprisoning a defendant who is able, but refuses, to pay a fine. The court may do so after finding that the defendant was somehow responsible for the failure to pay and that alternative forms of punishment would be inadequate to meet the state's interest in punishment and deterrence (Beardenv. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660, 103 S. Ct. 2064, 76 L. Ed. 2d 221 [1983]).

In a case of willful nonpayment, the court may order incarceration for a period of time specified under statute. In Kentucky, a prison term of up to six months may be ordered if the unpaid fine was imposed for the conviction of a felony. Nonpayment of a misdemeanor fine may result in a prison term of up to one-third the maximum authorized term for the offense committed. For a violation, the maximum term is ten days. This amount can be cumulative. For example, if a person refuses to pay the fines for ten violations, that person can be incarcerated for one hundred days (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 534.060).

Fines are often used to pay for incarceration and other sentencing costs. In 1984, Congress passed the Comprehensive crime control act (codified in scattered sections of 5, 8, 29, 41, 42, and 50 App. U.S.C.A.), which established the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Commission. According to section 5E1.2 of the act, a federal court shall impose a fine that is at least sufficient to pay the costs of imprisonment, probation, or supervised release order. Many states have followed suit, and fines are increasingly used to defray the costs of punishment.


April 2, 2010

Disaster Plannning for Law Libraries

This morning I was one of many who received the following e-mail from Jessica Van Buren of the Utah State Law Library. :

A few weeks ago I asked if any of you had disaster plans to share. I offered to compile responses for a new Toolkit page on the SCCLL [ State Court and County Law Libries Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) ] website if there was interest.

There was plenty of interest! Only two had plans to share, but it's a start. The information I gathered is now on the new Disaster Planning page on the SCCLL website at http://www.aallnet.org/sis/sccll/toolkit/disaster-planning.htm.

My thanks to our webmaster Kate Fitz for her work putting the page together! If you'd like add your plan (or any other information) to the web page, please send it to her at KFitz@saclaw.org.
-----------------------------------
After reading Jessica Van Buren's e-mail I visited the SCCLL website and was quite impressed by both the design and content. It is a wonderful place for those who need disaster planning information, not necessarily just for law libraries, to also visit.

David Badertscher

February 3, 2010

Court Reporters and Electronic Recording: An Exchange of Thoughts

We are not court reporters and normally do not become involved in discussions related to that field. Nevertheless we recently came accross an interesting exchange of e-mails which helps to identify and highlight the challenges and sometimes emotial reactions regarding how stenographic reporting and electronic recording relate to one another within the court reporting process.

The first e-mail, which we refer to as a comment, presented here in exerpted form, raises concerns about the impact of increased digitization of the process and a percieved lack of planning and resources to deal with these impacts.

The second e-mail is a response to the first. It defends some of the issues criticized in the first e-mail and presents an altervative perspective regarding the roles of stenographic reporting and electronic recording in the court reporting process.

Because of the nature of the exchange and the need to respect privacy we have deleted all identification information regarding either party

COMMENT (EXCERPT) :

:The reports prepared by NACM or reports by other groups sponsored by the National Center for State Courts should be prepared with the help of fine court staff who have spent years and dedicated their careers to expertly recording and preparing court transcripts.

As they say in the appellate courts, there is court reporter dissent with the recommendations of the National Association of Court Management and the recommendations of the Conference of State Court Administrators.

All court reporters who have ever worked in a courtroom and recorded court proceedings will strongly disagree with above mentioned findings and recommendations by NACM and the Conference of State Court Administrators.

Professional court reporters of all types have high standards, and it is not high standards to have the proceedings of several courtrooms monitored from a remote location.

Professional court reporters have high standards and would would never recommend wrapping court reporter notes in rubber bands and storing those notes in metal filing cabinets and then having to later empty those cabinets and file the records in cardboard boxes for permanent storage.

I believe it is the duty and responsibility of those who are skilled in court reporting to challenge reports put out by NACM and the Conference of State Court Administrators when skilled court reporters believe the recommendations made by NACM and the Conference of State Court Administrators are not in the best interests of the court systems or the best interests of the taxpayers when expensive unneeded metal filing cabinets are recommended for the storage of court reporter records.

Court reporters should speak up when the court administrators recommendations give bad advice.

RESPONSE:

Lets try to remove the hysterics from this issue, ... It is not an either/or choice of stenographic reporting or electronic recording. With the exception of Kentucky, every state I am aware of that has grappled with this has ended up with a blended solution of both methods of capturing the verbatim record. As the NACM Miniguide on this subject points out, court managers should go over several considerations to determine the best method to suit the circumstances depending upon such things as case type, likelihood of the need for a transcript and available resources.

As to the other matters you raise, in order to be effective, electronic recording equipment should be monitored by qualified internal or contract staff. The Florida courts have recommended a formula for how many courtrooms a monitor could handle simultaneously, again depending upon several factors. Their report has loads of helpful information about the effective use of electronic recording, and can be found at http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/court-services/bin/TCPACtReportingFinalReport.pdf

Finally, stenographic notes should be stored electronically, not in paper form. Who cares about the shelf life of rubber bands or whether notes should be stacked vertically or in hermetically sealed boxes?

Stenographic reporting is an honorable profession and there is a rightful place in the making of the court record for steno, especially if the reporter offers realtime and the host of technology advances that come with computer aided transcription. This combination is the platinum standard, but courts do not always need a Cadillac solution especially in these tough budgetary times.

I would much prefer that court reporters bring their expertise about the record to the table to help court management make informed decisions that benefit the system as a whole. Inflammatory rhetoric such as yours only harms this cause, in my view.

December 8, 2009

Q&A: Can a Librarian With Skills in Reference, Research, and Other Areas Potentially Become a Good Paralegal?

Question (as asked):

"With times being as tough as they are, and job opportunities not being
great, I'm considering getting certified as a paralegal. It seems
from what I've read so far that a Librarian's skills could translate
well into a paralegal's duties, and I wanted to ask if anyone has any
knowledge, experience, or opinion in the matter.

Does being a Librarian with skills in research and reference and other
areas mean such a person could potentially make a good paralegal? And
if so, does anyone recommend a particular course of action over
another for getting certification or experience?"

Summary of Responses:

On the positive side:

People who thought it was a good idea stressed how the fit is
basically a natural one, how a librarian's and a paralegal's skills
complemented one another.

Education was a major point, how someone could work while getting the
necessary certificate(check your state's requirements--they vary.)

The "immediate return" on a paralegal certificate was also stressed,
how once you have it, doors could potentially open right up.

On the negative side:

More than one person described work that was more administrative than
it was library-related. Little research, reference, or other type
work. Often work was more like that of a court runner, updating
clients, making copies, and the like.

Others describing their situations more often than not went in the
direction of being law librarians--more reasonable hours, more work
that they wanted to do, and more respect.

Lots more was written, of course. But those are the types of points I
focused on.

July 7, 2009

Law School Journals and Open Access

On june 15, 2009 we received an interesting question by e-mail regarding law school journals and open access. Somewhat later we received another e-mail from the same person, summarizing the responses to her original query. Due to increasing interest and concern regarding information access issues, including open access to law journals we are posting both the original question and responses below. In order to preserve confidentiality we will not be mentioning names but are very grateful to the legal bibliographer who raised the original question and summarized the responses:

QUESTION:

Do any of your law school journals publish their open access contents through a repository (like DSpace, BePress, etc..), or use a system like OJS-Open Journal Systems (PKP) to publish online? Do they simply post their issues/articles as pdf's to the law school server?

RESPONSES:

-3 libraries said their journals are not open access.

-2 responded that their journals post them as pdf's to the law school server/their journal websites.

-Rob Richards said that he thinks that Utah uses OJS for their journals http://epubs.utah.edu/index.php/ulr (From the website, it looks like that is the case._ He also thought that Northwestern might use Sharepoint for the online versions of its journals, but I have not yet confirmed.

-This summer, Pace [University in New York] has a project adding the entire backfile for all three of our law reviews here at Pace to the Pace Digital Commons. They have finished the Pace International Law Review http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/intlaw/ and are currently working on Pace Law Review http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawrev/ . After that, they will do Pace Environmental Law Review http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/envlaw/

June 3, 2009

Q&A: Trends in Funding of Court and County Law Libraries*

QUESTION:

Recently, Connecticut and New Jersey have sought to remove funding completely for their county and court law libraries through budget bills and separate legislative actions. Has anyone experienced this threat from their state legislature recently?

SOME RESPONSES:

In our state we have been given notice of a 10% cut in budget for next year. However, the cut is across the board and affects all state agencies so we have not been singled out.
_________________________

All county law libraries in Minnesota are experiencing revenue decreases indirectly. Most county law libraries in MN (the State law library and law libraries in Hennepin and Ramsey counties are exceptions) receive income through court fees and fines. There is some jockeying between the state and counties for these fines. The current MN legislature has passed into law a reallocation of these fines in a way that we believe will reduce our income. Each law library board of trustees may need to reinstate these fees county by county to insure proper funding of the law libraries. It's too early to know the impact of the law at this point.
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Marion County Law Library (Indianapolis) has already lost 1 of 2 staff members last fall, reduced public service hours to just 6 a day, all federal and some practice materials have been canceled this spring. The library is going to be downsized even more or completely restructured by this fall (if nothing else, closing is an option that is being discussed too). All city-county agencies must present a budget with 5% cuts compared to 2008. The law library is not regulated by a state or local legislature/ordinance, it is a division of the Court Administration and funded from the Courts’ General Fund. There is a Family Court Project Room at the County Clerk’s Office opened last year (funded by a grant) that is supposed to help pro se family law cases but, so far, it has created more work for the library not less by referring all those pro se to the library. There is no state legislature concerning public law libraries throughout the state and, not surprisingly, there are just a few of us to begin with.
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Although the income we receive through filing fees has increased do to more lawsuits being filed, the County is in dire straights. The County which pays for our leased facilities informed me in April that they could no longer pay for the lease on our branch and that there was a shortfall with the main law library's lease as well.

They instructed us to shut the branch down in 2 months! My board did not want to do that and approved a one time allocation of funds to pay the lease amount ourselves so that we can properly close the branch in June 2010.
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In addition to the above responses the following is a link to a recent comment by the Chief Administrative Judge of Connecticut regarding the current budget proposal for the Connecticut Judical Branch. Although libraries are not mentioned specifically these comments do speak to issues being confronted regarding state funding.

Commentary
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*In deference to privacy and confidentiality concerns expressed by some readers, all references to personal names in the above responses have been deleted. This however does not detract in any way from our appreciation of the professionalism and generosity of spirit exhibited by those participating in this discussion.

April 28, 2009

Key Facts and Commentary About Swine Influenza (Swine Flu)

As you undoubtedly have heard, a new strain of influenza called Swine Flu or Swine Influenza apparently started about a month ago in Mexico. It has now spread, first to at least a few states in the United States and now may be spreading world wide.

Art Bernardino who provides consulting services in pandamic planning suggests seven things people can do to lessen infection and protect themselves and others:

1. Wash hands frequently using soap and water or waterless hand sanitizers

2. Cover your cough and sneezes use proper cough etiquette by coughing into the crook of your elbow

3. Minimize contact with others. Crowded places and large gatherings of people should be avoided.

4. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between persons wherever practical

5. If you have to be in close contact (less than 6 feet) with people, consider wearing a N95 (NIOSH approved) respirator

6. Keep the flu out of the workplace! Don't go to work or allow people to come to work if they are possibly sick with the flu

7. Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouthThe best source for current information on the Swine Flu and recommended responses are at the following two websites:

To help provide added perspective regarding this Swine Flu issue I am posting links to a Q & A explanation of Swine Flu, an unedited transcript to a CDC sponsored conference call regarding the issue, and a link to a CDC website devoted to the issue of Swine Flu::

Q&A: Key Facts About Swine Flu

Unedited Transcript: CDC Conference Call Regarding Swine Flu, April 27, 2009

New CDC Website Devoted to the Issues of Swine Flu

March 19, 2009

Q&A: To What Extent and Under What Conditions Are Congressional Research Reports Official Documents? *

Q\UESTION::

In a recent e-mail, someone from Canada asked asked how she could obtain an "official copy" of a Congressional Research Service report, "one from Congress," not one from the website of an organization such as the Federation of American Scientists. The responses which follow are very interesting; they address a variety of related issues including the following: Are Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that contain added designations such as watermarks, trademarks, or copyright notices official and are they in the public domain? Does the U.S. Government have any special rights to use copyrighted materials? and can CRS reports always be freely disseminated as government documents?

RESPONSES:

Official editions of the CRS reports can be ordered from Penny Hill
Press, www.pennyhill.com :
__________________________________________

The reports from www.pennyhill.com are often trademarked or watermarked with gallerypress.

This one at http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/44110.pdf is the same thing Congress see.
___________________________________________

It's my understanding that most - but not all - U.S.A. federal government publications - including this one - are in the public domain. Consequently, this report can be reproduced - or in this instance - reposted on non-federal government websites. If you need a copy of this report that originates from an U.S.A. federal government website, you can use any of these links:

http://www.italy.usembassy.gov/pdf/other/RL32806.pdf

http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/44110.pdf

http://www.counterterrorismtraining.gov/pubs/05.html

__________________________________________

yes,

See the CENDI* Frequently Asked Questions About Copyright.

5.1.1 Does the U.S. Government have any special rights to use copyrighted material?

http://www.cendi.gov/publications/04-8copyright.html#511

Also see the CENDI White Paper: "Don't Keep the Public Guessing - Best Practices in Notices of Terms and Conditions of Use For Government Website Content"

http://www.cendi.gov/publications/04-4website_policy.html "It is a commonly held belief that information published or sponsored by the U.S. Government or available from a U.S. government source, such as a government website, is in the public domain. However, a key finding in a 1999 Government Printing Office report is that "fifteen percent of the products surveyed are not in the public domain, for all or part of the product" (see, "Report on the Assessment of Electronic Government Information Products". A look at authors and owners of government information suggests that the percentage may be greater and is likely increasing with government's growing reliance on the private sector to conduct the business of government."

NOTE: CENDI is an interagency working group of senior scientific and technical managers from 13 U.S. federal agencies. Its mission is to help improve productivity of federal science and technology programs through effective scientific, technical, and related information support sysems. From: CENDI website.

__________________________________________

I posted this on law-lib a few weeks ago on a discussion of crs reports:

"CRS reports themselves do not have copyright restriction because they are government documents and can be freely disseminated"

And the CRS won't admit it even though there is such a policy at http://www.cendi.gov/publications/04-8copyright.html#511...

The article about the CRS reports in the Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/27/AR2005062701509.html mentioned that copyright infringement. ...CRS has consistently said it is not designed to serve any sort of public information function. In past years, it has said that could create a number of ýlegal and practical problems, contending, for example, that interest groups ýand lobbyists would inundate its office with complaints and comments in hopes ýof influencing what CRS analysts wrote. It has also expressed fears that it could be held liable for what it said in the reports or be sued for copyright infringement..."

also

See from http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2005/06/062805.html#2
"CRS HAS NO PUBLIC MISSION"

Why aren't non-confidential Congressional Research Service reports automatically made available to the public? At first glance, the policy appears to reflect institutional arrogance or reflexive secrecy on the part of CRS and the Congress. But there is more to it than that, congressional officials say. CRS repeatedly stresses that it works for Congress, and only for Congress. "CRS assists every Member and committee," said Director Daniel P.Mulhollan in May 23 testimony before the House Appropriations Committee. "All of our work is confidential and focuses solely, directly, and specifically on the needs of the congressional community. CRS has no public mission." By insisting on this point, CRS is distinguishing itself from the larger and higher-profile Government Accountability Office. More subtly, CRS is repudiating any comparison with the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was dismantled by Congressional Republicans in 1995, an event that is seared in the consciousness of CRS officials. What CRS is saying is that it has no institutional agenda of its own aside from support to members of Congress, and that, unlike OTA, it takes no position on disputed policy matters.

CRS believes that its uniqueness as a congressional support agency, which constitutes its central claim to continued funding, would only be diluted by direct interactions with public consumers. "Over time, CRS products might come to be written with a large public audience in mind and could no longer be focused solely on congressional needs," CRS Director Mulhollan said in a written statement yesterday. And the current congressional leadership apparently agrees. "CRS has received clear indication from its oversight committees that no change in the current policy is authorized," Director Mulhollan wrote yesterday. "It is important to recognize that while the restriction on public access to CRS products is frequently characterized as CRS 'resistance,' the reality is that the policy is a congressional one," he noted. In any case, "As CRS obtains no copyright in its products, little can be done to discourage the trend toward further public availability of CRS products brought about without the permission of a Member or committee." A 1999 CRS memorandum outlined several reasons why it believed direct public access to CRS products would have unfavorable legal and institutional consequences. See "Congressional Policy Concerning the Distribution of CRS Written Products," March 9, 1999: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/policy.html

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* In deference to privacy and confidentiality concerns expressed by some readers, all references to personal names in the above responses have been deleted. That however does not detract in any way from our appreciation and gratitude to all who participated in the above discussion for their professionalism, dedication, and generosity of spirit.

February 25, 2009

New, Powerful, State-Of-The-Art Learning Technology Coming to the American Association of Law Libraries

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is proud to announce it is adopting a new, powerful, state-of-the-art learning technology, which will provide a new learning gateway to all AALL members.

The new Ed2Go @AALLNET site will provide members with:

Online access to the AALL Annual Meeting program recordings, as well as archived Webinars, audio recordings, and video recordings

Continuing educational program handouts distributed electronically, adding convenience in an environmentally-friendly way

Advanced search capabilities, which will allow you to focus on your key areas of interest with maximum flexibility to find the materials where and when you need them

Online profiles so you can keep track of the continuing education programs in which you participate and determine areas where you need more education

Stay tuned to the AALL E-Newsletter for more news about when the Ed2Go @AALLNET site will be available

February 23, 2009

Q&A: Transcription Off Site of Court Recordings*

QUESTION:

Does anyone have any complaints about the accuracy of court transcripts prepared off-site by transcribers who were not in the court at the time of the recording?

Also, what kind of a certification and qualifications do you require for your court reporters in your area?

Our government is looking to start using digital recording monitored by a court monitor and transcription pools to replace court reporters.

What I am wondering is have you had issues with not having a certified court reporter type the transcript since you have changed over to the typing pool or off-site typist?

RESPONSE:

In South Dakota, we do not use off-site transcribers. All transcripts are prepared by official (court employed) court reporters, in-state freelance reporters who were in court and reported on the proceeding, or, in the case of electronically recorded proceedings, court recorders (court employed). We have had no complaints about accuracy. Our rule regarding use of electronically recorded proceedings is attached and also allows these proceedings to be transcribed by an official court reporter. In practice, we encourage these proceedings to be transcribed by a reporter.

RESPONSE:

[Deleted] the U.S. federal courts use audio recording for a lot of judges (and steno reporters for lots, too!), and of course many transcripts are produced from these recordings. Typically, the transcripts are produced by outside vendors that apply to each local court to perform that service (there is no national registry). As an example, my court's two judges both use audio recording for all hearings and trials, and we have a page on our local website listing the transcription firms (and other information). Go to http://www.nmcourt.fed.us/usbc/transcripts to see this information. If a firm/person wants to be added to our list, we check references with other courts as our primary means to assess qualifications.

Now, regarding the accuracy of the transcripts, I have never had even one complaint here. I believe the work done by the transcriptionists is excellent, even though they weren't in the courtroom at the time. If we ever had an accuracy problem, we would strike the offending firm from our list.
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* All names and other forms of specific identification have been edited out to protect the privacy and confidentiality of participants.


February 23, 2009

Q&A: Electronic Signatures*

QUESTION:

Does any one use electronic signatures for documents? We conduct video arraignments with detention facilities around our county and this would be most helpful and much more efficient. Any information you can provide will be appreciated.

RESPONSE:

There is a difference between electronic and digital. We use a live electronic, if that is what you are looking for and are gearing up to include digital on some forms.

We have used live electronic in our video bond call for eight years on Orders to Remand, among others forms. We also use an electronic signature for Orders of Protection, electronically certify them and email them directly to the Sheriff. What kind of information do you want?
___________________________________
*All names and other forms of specific identification have been edited out to protect the privacy and confidentialtiy of participants.

February 23, 2009

Q&A: Communication With Hispanic Deaf Mute Defendant*


QUESTION:

"...We have a defendant charged with child molestation. The child is the defendant's niece. The defendant is in his 20s, is deaf and mute and family speaks Spanish. The family has created a home sign language to communicate with the defendant. The court has excluded the brother (father of the child molested) as someone to communicate between the court and the defendant due to the obvious conflict. A sister was questioned in court as to her ability to communicate and it was determined that the home sign language was extremely basic information and she did not have the ability to communicate the court process to the defendant nor did she understand the court process. Today we had an certified American Sign Language interpreter who also is a Spanish interpreter. He was able to communicate very basic words i.e. mother, father, Mexico, hospital but did not believe he could communicate well enough with the defendant to explain the court process or the allegations to him.

Have any of you encountered this situation, and if so, how did you handle it?"

RESPONSE:

Try www.rid.org. Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) have expertise in this area.

If he could read English or Spanish, I would suggest using a realtime court reporter or Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) provider. http://cart.ncraonline.org/Directory/default.htm.
_________________________________
*All names and other forms of specific identification have been edited out to protect the privacy and confidentiality of participants.



January 14, 2009

Seeking Funding Ideas for Court*

QUESTION:

We as a court are in the process of looking under every rock for potential funding sources. To that end we are interested in getting ideas and tips about short- or long-term legislation and
policies around the nation that have provided directed funding to court programs or projects. Specifically, temporary filing fee assessments, temporary fine enhancements, fees for ongoing technology improvements, etc... We intend to use these as ammunition for similar funding should that possibility exist or become necessary during our legislative process. The sky is the limit here and we are looking for ideas so any thought would be helpful.

RESPONSE

The text of the Texas Court Security fund from the Code of Criminal Procedure is in the text attached below. This is one of several legislatively mandated funds that are strictly dedicated for court use and collected directly from court fines as fees. They pile up after a while. There is also a technology fund and several juvenile case funds also under article 102 of the Texas CCP which you can get to on this link: http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/ Just go the Texas Statutes drop down menu on the left and look for article 102 under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

I hope this is helpful.

Art. 102.017. COURT COSTS; COURTHOUSE SECURITY FUND; MUNICIPAL COURT BUILDING SECURITY FUND; JUSTICE COURT BUILDING SECURITY FUND. (a) A defendant convicted of a felony offense in a district court shall pay a $5 security fee as a cost of court.

b) A defendant convicted of a misdemeanor offense in a county court, county court at law, or district court shall pay a $3 security fee as a cost of court. A defendant convicted of a misdemeanor offense in a justice court shall pay a $4 security fee as a cost of court. The governing body of a municipality by ordinance may create a municipal court building security fund and may require a defendant convicted of a misdemeanor offense in a municipal court to pay a $3 security fee as a cost of court.

(c) In this article, a person is considered convicted if:

(1) a sentence is imposed on the person;

(2) the person receives community supervision, including deferred adjudication; or

(3) the court defers final disposition of the person's case.

(d) Except as provided by Subsection (d-1), the clerks of the respective courts shall collect the costs and pay them to the county or municipal treasurer, as appropriate, or to any other official who discharges the duties commonly delegated to the county or municipal treasurer, as appropriate, for deposit in a fund to be known as the courthouse security fund or a fund to be known as the municipal court building security fund, as appropriate. A fund designated by this subsection may be used only to finance security personnel for a district, county, justice, or municipal court, as appropriate, or to finance items when used for the purpose of providing security services for buildings housing a district, county, justice, or municipal court, as appropriate, including:

(1) the purchase or repair of X-ray machines and conveying systems;

(2) handheld metal detectors;

(3) walkthrough metal detectors;

(4) identification cards and systems;

(5) electronic locking and surveillance equipment;

(6) bailiffs, deputy sheriffs, deputy constables, or contract security personnel during times when they are providing appropriate security services;

(7) signage;

(8) confiscated weapon inventory and tracking systems;

(9) locks, chains, alarms, or similar security devices;

(10) the purchase or repair of bullet-proof glass; and

(11) continuing education on security issues for court personnel and security personnel.

(e) The courthouse security fund and the justice court building security fund shall be administered by or under the direction of the commissioners court. The municipal court building fund shall be administered by or under the direction of the governing body of the municipality.

(f) A local administrative judge shall provide to the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System a written report regarding any security incident involving court security that occurs in or around a building housing a court for which the judge serves as local administrative judge not later than the third business day after the date the incident occurred.
_________________________________________
*In order to preserve confidentiality and privacy all names and references to specific locations have been deleted from this posting.

September 23, 2008

What is Your Policy On Cell Phones in the Court House?

QUESTION:

What is your policy on cell phones in the courthouse? Are you able to keep them with you? If not, what do you do with them while you are in the courthouse? Can you use them in the courthouse?

SOME RESPONSES:

"...The New Castle County Courthouse in Delaware bans the general public from entering with any cellphones or electronic devices. Staff, attorneys, police officers, etc. are allowed to enter with these devices with proper identification. However, the devices are not allowed to be used in the courtroom while the judge is on the bench. There are lockers in the adjacent parking garage which cost $.50 and allow people who did not drive to Court to deposit their devices. However, numerous people hide the cell phones in the bushes because, I guess, $.50 is too expensive"
__________________

"On recommendation of the Judicial Branch Administrative Council, the Supreme Court adopts the following policy concerning use of electronic devices in New Hampshire Judicial Branch courtrooms:

Electronic devices, including laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and cellular telephones are permitted in the courtroom unless the presiding justice finds that use of a particular device will disrupt a particular court proceeding. Cellular telephones shall be put in 'silent mode' in the courtroom.

Audio recorders, video cameras, and still cameras, including cellular telephone cameras, are also permitted in the courtroom. Supreme Court Rule 19, Superior Court Rule 78, District Court Rule 1.4 (also applicable in the Family Division), and Probate Court Rule 78 regulate use of devices listed in this paragraph"
___________________

"We do not take cell phones away as our customers enter the courthouse. Although upon entering the courtrooms we have signs posted stating that cell phones need to be turned off and are subject to being confiscated. I have attached Rule 1.150 from the Rules of Court used in CA. Our Local Rules also state that any and all video, cell phone and other photography through crtrm windows or into the courtroom from the hallway is subject to the same restrictions that apply to the use of cameras in the crtroom and shall require prior approval by the judge of the affected courtroom. (See CA Rules of Court 1.150)"
____________________

"Our policy allows attorneys and law enforcement officers to bring in
cell phones, but not the general public. We give customers the choice of
returning the phone to their vehicle, or we have a system where we can
hold the phone for them and give them a ticket to retrieve it when they
leave the courthouse (there is a sign on the exit reminding them to
retrieve their phone). The reaction to this policy is generally very
negative, but we found it necessary due to gang members using camera
phones to intimidate witnesses. Yes it's a double standard, but it would
really be cumbersome so impose this on attorneys and law enforcement
officers."
_____________________

"I like the cell phone policies at the Montgomery County Circuit and Baltimore City District Courts in [Maryland]. Their policies state something to the effect that cell phones are allowed in the courthouse, but the audible ring has to be silenced and no phone use is allowed in any courtroom. They also prohibit the use of cell phone cameras at all times.

I have only seen a handful of courts that outright ban them. Those that do have negative reactions among court patrons and there is usually some allowance for attorneys, which generates more negative reaction due to a perceived double standard. Moreover, rather than return the cell phone to one's automobile, people tend to stash them in the bushes (hopefully) to retrieve them later.

In short, courts need to make reasonable adjustments to contemporary times, which for better or for worse, involves significant cell phone ownership"
______________________

The Knowledge and Information Service (KIS) of the National Center for State Courts did a survey a few years ago which covered this topic. They "...observed a trend with regard to banning cell phones. Cell phones are a distraction; if they are not permitted in doctors’ offices, movie theaters, and restaurants, why should we allow them in courtrooms? At the very least, judges require that phones be turned off in court."


September 19, 2008

The Jury Expert: The Art and Science of Litigation and Advocacy

Volume 20 Issue 3 September 2008

Table of Contents

The Preparation of Narcissistic Witnesses

Solution Focused Mediation

Some Juror Rules for Determining Damages

The 3 Cs in Using Visual Communication to Tell Legal Stories: Communication, Credibility,
and the Central Image

Using the Science of Persuasion in the Courtroom

Our Favorite Thing(s) for September

Lawyers Learning to Communicate

Witness Preparation: Hidden False Assumptions, Real Truths, Recommendations

A Jury of Your Peers: Venue, Vicinage and Buffer Statutes

To see complete issue click here.

August 20, 2008

Q&A Courts: Video Docket Room Assignment Systems*

QUESTION:

"I am looking for any courts that have a video system that displays the docket or room assignments for patrons of the court. I looking for any specs that you have in place. For instance are you using LCD TV screens or just normal computer screens. Do you have a system that is doing real time updates or do you have set times to up the list? "

"Do you have a scrolling list or a static display with the screen changing every x seconds?"

RESPONSES:

"We use a bank of 4 32" LCD monitors in our lobby that display the Name, Case #, Courtroom & Time of all criminal courtroom (5 courtrooms) events for the day via a windows based application using a quad output video card."

"It was written in house (VB.NET) and displays events for x hours before current and x hours after current (can be changed via configuration screen). Colors are also configurable so each courtroom has its own color. It is also configurable for how long it is active (so monitors go to sleep after hours). The refresh time is also configurable and we have currently have it set for 15 seconds."

"If the amount of names takes more than the 4 screens can display, it will spill over to next refresh for remainder, and then start from beginning again (we display them alphabetically). The program uses a generic query written against a view on our database server that just returns the name, case #, courtroom, and time needed for the display in case we ever change databases."
___________________________________________

"...[Our State] does have a system available that displays scrolling court dockets in the lobby of the facility. Various information is available, depending on the type of calendar, including name, case number, judge and room number.

It is scheduled at regular intervals, to accommodate add-on cases. It does not update to remove cases that have been completed; we found that latecomers were better directed to the courtroom to receive information about completed cases rather than asking at the counter.

Two of our 10 districts currently use this feature and others are considering it. They use LCD (not computer) screens.

We also have a system that is designed to display cases that are ready to be called so attorneys, defendants and other interested parties know when to be present. It displays in the courtroom or hallway and in some locations in the holding area of the jail to assist the jail in preparing in custody defendants. It is continually updated to display current information. "

______________________________________
*Identifying information has been removed from the above responses to preserve confidentiality.

August 15, 2008

Quinlan Law Enforcement: Pop Quiz August 14, 2008

From: Quinlan Law Enforcement E-News Alert, August 14, 2008

Question:

"Peals was arrested in his garage by a number of Terre Haute, Indiana police officers from the Street Crimes Unit, a unit used to perform special tasks including high-risk arrests, narcotics arrests, and narcotics information gathering. Among these officers were two K-9 units. The police officers had a warrant for Peals arrest, but they did not possess a search warrant for the home. After the officers took Peals into custody, several of the officers and K-9 units looked around the garage. Did the search of the garage violate Peals's constitutional rights?"


Answer:

"No. Under the rules regarding a protective sweep, the police could, incident to arrest and as a precautionary measure without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, look in closets and other spaces immediately adjoining the place of arrest from which an attack could be immediately launched. Here, the officers visually inspected the area in which Peals was arrested and entered an immediately adjoining space in which other persons could have been located and from which they could have launched an attack. Importantly, Peals did not allege that any officer opened or otherwise manipulated anything in the garage or house, or that the limited search extended beyond a brief visual inspection of the areas immediately adjoining the garage where he was arrested. In addition, the presence of the K-9 units did not affect the legality of the search. As a general rule, K-9 units trained to protect officers and apprehend suspects could accompany police officers, and K-9 units trained to detect contraband did not conduct a search when they sniffed in an area where they were lawfully present. Here, the officers and K-9 units were lawfully present in Peals's garage, and there was no indication the dogs were trained for something other than protecting officers or detecting contraband. Consequently, the search was lawful."

Citation: Peals v. Terre Haute Police Dept., 2008 WL 2854149 (7th Cir. 2008)

July 24, 2008

Moving Library from County Courthouse to Another Building

QUESTION:

"My library's board just learned of a plan to move our library from our wonderful space in the county courthouse, to some undecided space in another building (yet to be considered). We barely managed to stall a vote on the decision yesterday, and have just till Monday for the next meeting and vote. The County wants to convert our space to a jury room."

"I wonder how those of you who moved from the courthouse have fared? I would appreciate any letters/messages expressing your experiences, thoughts, or ideas of help. We're rallying as much help from all sources as possible"

SOME RESPONSES:

"We moved from the county courthouse to a renovated building, a joint venture with the county of ..., across the street. It was a carefully planned project and not forced by the county to move. We are very happy to move into the new facility."

"Your situation is different from ours. You have to tell the county why you should stay at where you are. It's politics which you need to present your case and lobby with the decision makers. It sounds like the court wants the space and has asked the county to pursue on their behalf. Good luck on pursuing your case."
______________________________________

"I'm not the best to speak about this (bc I wasn't here at the time), but the ... County Public Law Library happily moved out of the ... Superior courthouse approximately 5 years ago. We love the 'new' law library space in a renovated building about 2 blocks away from the courthouse.

There is much more space for patrons, the collection, patron computers and staff; we have a great Training Center where we offer classes of all kinds to attorneys and self-represented litigants; and so on. The best thing is that we can now offer our patrons extended evening and Saturday hours (including offering classes on evenings and Saturdays).

It has been a real win-win situation. I am aware of the former space that the law library occupied in the courthouse basement, and it was insufficient for our needs & dark (we now have windows - yay). But the court has utilized this space for their needs, and they are very tight for space.

I don't know what your situation is, and it can be ideal to be inside the courthouse for many reasons. That said, being outside may also offer opportunities for good growth and change.

But I agree with ...: you need to enlist the aid of some stake holders to lobby the powers that be, if you truly feel that this is a mistake. Who can help you with this effort? Do you have patrons that could speak on your behalf and clearly articulate why it is important to them for the law library to remain in the courthouse? Do you have local politicians who could speak up on your behalf? What about your Board? What about the general public library (eg, is it beneficial from their perspective to have you in the courthouse - or - will they speak up on your behalf)?

If you cannot change their minds (from moving you out of the courthouse), then use your stake holders to assist you in obtaining the right space in the right building that is close to the courthouse.

List the pros & cons of moving and good luck with your efforts."
_______________________________________

"It may just simply be that the Court is not aware of how much use your library gets; and not just by those who have business with the Court. It also sounds like you have a small library - this could be a chance to LOBBY for a convenient location that has more space."

May 16, 2008

Tip: Three Ways to Cut and Paste From Word to Wordperfect

Some of us in "Wordperfect shops" are always looking for ways to cut and past from Word to Wordperfect. Yesterday I came across the following tip from Charles T. Lester Jr. He was responding to a question on TechnoLawyer--Answers to Questions http://www.technolawyer.com:

QUESTION:.

"My problem with WordPerfect is that when I cut data from a Word doc and paste it into a WP doc I seem to get equal parts type and Word-inserted codes. Can I accomplish a Word to WP cut and paste without all the garbage? If not, what's the quickest way to delete all the garbage? Thanks."

RESPONSE
:

Several different ways, all ending up with the same result. (This explanation is done with Word 2003, WordPerfect X3, and Windows XP.) YMMV.

Step 1: Copy the stuff from Word. This is probably preaching to the choir, but to copy, highlight the text you wish to copy, and then do any one of the following five things: (1) right click and select "Copy"; (2) click the copy icon on the toolbar at the top of Word; (3) press the Alt key, type the letter E (for Edit), then type the letter C (for Copy); (4) click "Edit" on the Menu Bar, then click "Copy" in the drop-down menu that appears; or (5) hold down the Ctrl key and type the letter C.

Step 2: Paste the text into WordPerfect. Switch to the WordPerfect window, and one of the following three things: (1) press the Alt key, type the letter E (for Edit), then click "Paste Special"; (2) click Edit on the menu bar at the top of the screen, then click "Paste Special". In either case, you will get a pop-up box that will ask you how you want to paste it. This may be populated with as few as two, or as many as five or six different options, depending upon the source of the copied text. I usually select "Unformatted Text" to get the result without formatting codes.

I said there were three things you could do. That's because the third method is usually the easiest, and often the most useful.

The third method is to right click in the WordPerfect window. If you do that, you get a window that pops up with several different paste options: "Paste", "Paste without Font/Attributes", and "Paste Unformatted Text". "Paste Unformatted Text" gets you to the same place that the previously mentioned methods 1 and 2 do, just a bit quicker.

Oftentimes, however, "Paste without Font/Attributes" gets me closer to the result I'm actually looking for: it keeps my current font, but preserves things like hyperlinks and alignment.

Charles T. Lester, Jr.
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 75069
Fort Thomas, KY 41075-0069


April 17, 2008

Q&A: What is Virtual Law?

QUESTION:

What is virtual law?

RESPONSE:

"Virtual law is like 'Internet law,' in that it refers to a wide body of generally preexisting law that is applied somewhat differently in a new context. In fact, much of what we think of as 'Internet law' applies to virtual worlds. In sum, virtual law is the statutory and case law that impacts virtual worlds and the application of that law to these spaces."

READ MORE

________________________
Source: ABA: Inside Practice (April 2008).