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San Diego amps up court technology

County court systems have a reputation for archaic filing systems, but San Diego County is squashing that stereotype.

San Diego Superior Court, for instance, is saving trees and lawyers’ time with its paperless program that facilitates electronic access to court files.

“It beats having to go down to the county to pay 10 cents a page during operating hours when the Hall of Justice is open,” said Neal Fischer, founder of San Diego-based Hershey Technologies, which helps improve document-based communications.

Hershey Technologies designed a digital document-capture solution and Web portal for the county district attorney and public defender departments to create a centrally managed, countywide e-Discovery case-issuance process.

That means any registered attorney defending a case in the county can sign up and receive discovery electronically. The downloadable Adobe PDFs let staff easily search and manage case file data sets.

“Just like you download a ticket on Live Nation for a concert,” Fischer said.

Being able to access information quickly is especially helpful when prosecutors are fighting against the clock. According to state law, a person can’t be incarcerated more than 72 hours without probable cause.

“In previous years, that was a nightmare, using high-cost methods of transport, which could include a sheriff driving documents to that particular location, where attorneys or justices are at,” Fischer said.

The money-pit days of multidefendant cases are also over. A dozen or so local companies used to cash in on the reams of documents that needed to be shared in multidefendant cases, and would photocopy documents and make copies for each party.

“We are talking thousands of pages and tens of thousands of dollars. In some cases the settlements of these [cases] are just in the administration and document prep and paper handling,” Fischer said.

Today, the digital model allows organizations to be more agile and opens up work hours for legal staff.

“We can capture technology or documents in a single type of workflow. It makes good business sense to reduce operational expenses,” he said.

The technologies include Fujitsu high-speed document scanners, Kofax OCR / PDF conversion imaging software, networked copiers, Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft SharePoint Web portal technologies.

Other counties in the state are trying to follow suit.

“The state of California has had a horrendous problem trying to automate their court systems,” Fischer said. “We are leading the state in this e-discovery model.”

The document management collaboration portal was designed and developed 18 months ago and deployed in the past six.

“That is a pretty fast track,” he said.

Fischer said he’s not aware of any district attorney's office in the state that allows defense attorneys to download discovery information digitally.

“The leading technology and customer service companies worldwide are using this technology,” he said. “It’s the same technology used at Qualcomm and HP.”

While paper is on the outs in San Diego courtrooms, videoconferencing capabilities are in.

San Diego-based Kramm Court Reporting’s mobile videoconferencing products include Cameo and LiveDeposition.

As law firm clients search for ways to cut down on litigation costs, they ask about using Skype as an alternative to a formal videoconference suite.

“They are thinking with Skype, it would save costs and allows for much more flexible access, thinking all one needs is Internet access,” said Rosalie Kramm, president of the company. “But there are huge problems with Skype.”

For instance, dozens of programs allow someone to hack into a Skype feed, and video quality isn’t always the best. Cameo, which streams privately in real time and does not carry the risk of malware infection, is the superior option.

Kramm recently reported a two-week trial in Newport Beach where some of the clients in New York wanted to be virtually present.

Through a Cameo feed, the New York attorneys were able to watch and hear the arbitration.

In addition, LiveDeposition’s Web-based live deposition and videoconferencing services streamline the litigation process by conducting real-time depositions and online meetings.

“We are able to send the video/audio feed as well as a real-time feed of the transcript text,” Kramm said. “We can also stream the videofeed with Cameo to an iPad.”

The con of mobile videoconferencing is bandwidth.

Some clients use the Cameo videostream for doctor depositions at the doctors’ offices.

“Many times the doctors believe they have Internet access — but don’t,” Kramm said.

A weak bandwidth can create a choppy feed. In addition, firewalls can require an IT person to get through.

“We have learned how to jury-rig doctors’ offices so 90 percent of the time we can send a solid videostream,” she said.

Kramm’s court reporters are now using wireless real-time and can send a Bluetooth feed of trial testimony directly to the judge’s computer and the attorneys’ computers wirelessly.

“[That] solves logistical problems of taping down wires and moving around the courtroom during trials,” Kramm said.

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