Stepping into the McGlothlin Courtroom at William & Mary Law School is a little like walking into mission control at NASA. You are immediately aware of the large flat-panel video screens and the monitors at each seat in the jury box.
The courtroom - one of the most technologically advanced on the planet - is a working model for real high-tech court systems being designed and built around the world by the Center for Legal and Court Technology, a joint program of the Law School and the National Center for State Courts.
"We're the world center for courtroom and related technology," says Center Director and Chancellor Professor of Law Fred Lederer, who recently traveled to the Middle East to consult on courtroom technology needs. But the greatest beneficiaries of the Center's international expertise are right at home in Williamsburg.
"Every law student at William & Mary receives hands-on training in our courtroom in their second year as part of the Legal Skills Program," explains Lederer. During two years of working in a simulated law firm, the students must try a case in the courtroom, using some of the technology available, which is substantial.
"We have the ability to have at least five remote participants at one time," he adds. "We have every method of taking high-tech court records known to humanity, and our court record consists of digital audio, video, transcript and the evidence as the case takes place."
The Center for Legal and Court Technology also puts the latest technology to the test in laboratory trials conducted by students in the Legal Technology Seminar. Recently, for example, Lederer's students conducted a lab trial to show how courtrooms can be designed to better serve citizens with disabilities.
"We had an almost blind judge, witnesses in wheelchairs, a blind witness, witnesses who could not hear or speak, counsel in a wheelchair, and the first counsel ever to present closing argument on a Segway transporter," says Lederer.
For another lab trial involving a cross-border parental child kidnapping, the Center tried the case simultaneously in Williamsburg and Monterrey, Mexico.
"Both courts had their judges in their own courtrooms and counsel in their own courtrooms," explains Lederer. "We took evidence from each of the courts. We did Spanish and English interpretation out of Williamsburg. And the evidence was available on the Internet."
Find out more about the Center for Legal and Court Technology [www.legaltechcenter.net], including its basic and advanced training courses for legal professionals and courtroom technologists.