Technology in the courtrooms

BBCi is running an article on ‘US courtrooms go hi-tech’.

The article is well worth a read, and raises the technology prospects, which could become commonplace within the court system, and hopefully this would include the UK.

With such technology available, accessibilty would move from the margins further into the mainstream. For example, the article quotes:

The court stenographer arguably has the most arduous job, tracking every word that is spoken during the course of a trial.

Until recently it took days to produce an official printed copy of the record. Now it takes seconds.

Mollie Nichols, assistant director of Courtroom 21, explains: “The court record manager will actually speak into this mask and will be saying every word that the lawyer, the witness and the judge is saying.

“The recording actually goes into a computer and a typewritten transcript is produced in real time.”

As a precaution, the judge uses a hand-held pad that can control every device in the room. The judge can immediately stop anyone from seeing something they should not.

Such technology could be easily accessed and used by Deaf professionals and indeed other Deaf users of the court. With technology in place, it would be standard and thus dispel the need in some instances to request adjustments in advance.

Broken infra red systems

The personal experience of a US deaf attorney when equipment in the courtroom does not work, is highlighted in Blind Insight.

An extract:

Then began the worst part of the experience: because I was facing my opponent’s back, I could barely understand a word he said. I’m sure I looked comical leaning halfway over the counsel table, straining to catch the gist of his argument, and I was afraid to blink for fear of missing something crucial. But lucky for me, the panel seemed to be leaning my way, and the judges triple-teamed the government lawyer with one hostile question after another. Because I could see the judges’ faces, I was able to understand most of their questions and could anticipate much of what my opponent likely said in response.

Go over there and read the rest of the post, as I think its an issue a lot of hard of hearing lawyers could relate to. The blog is worthy of adding to your RSS feed.

Personally I have not used infra red or loop systems for over a decade, because I am not able to gain any benefit from them. Now if an interpreter didn’t show up, I would request for the hearing to be deferred, and I would be quite blunt about this. There would be little room for negotiation, and sometimes I wonder if this can be a difference in Deaf and hard of hearing people?

However, the account completely stirred previous emotions in me, and the struggle to get by. Firstly, the terror attached to mooting and debating at university, and that wasn’t a real life situation, but enough to send fear through me. I would just simply get by by guessing, and it did often go wrong. The emotions described in Madeline’s post, just brought it all spinning back. Secondly, when I used to work in courts with clients, and pushing yourself to the limit to ensure you did not jeopardise the client’s situation.

A lot of this had something to do with confidence. I do not mean general confidence, but confidence in being sure of who you were, and the confidence relating to asserting your needs. This is something that is neglected, and crucial in terms of survival.

Court Interpreters in California, USA

Here is a link to the California Judicial Council website with information related to interpreting in the courts of California. Apparently 80 languages, including American Sign Language, are used in the California courts. I know of other sign languages that have been used in California courts that required several teams of people to assist in the communication process in the courtroom. For general information on court interpreters and how American Sign Language Court interpreters for the deaf are certified, take a look at this website.