Courthouse columns.

Overcoming Logistical Challenges in an Atypical Trial Venue

By Roger Holtzen

October 24, 2018

Not all courtrooms are created equal. Not all judges appreciate technology. Not all trials are in courtrooms. Not all war rooms are in hotels or law offices. These challenges can be daunting to trial presentation consultants tasked with setting up the electronics, office equipment, internet connectivity, and presentation equipment needed to effectively present at trial. The following represent some scenarios trial presentation consultants have encountered and the creative approaches taken to overcome them.

Unique Judicial Challenges

What happens when the courtroom has no internet available but also prohibits the use of MiFi devices yet your expert needs to demonstrate web-based software live? Across the country there are many courtrooms where we encounter internet connectivity issues simply based upon location or lack of upgrading. The best solution is to be prepared prior to presenting in court. For this challenge we recorded the session live using screen capture software and then played the video in court. While this might not be the trial team’s preference, it allowed us to have a back-up plan which worked seamlessly.

Unique Trial Venues

Not all trials take place in big cities. Imagine setting up a war room for over 12 lawyers and support staff in a town of 200 residents in rural Arkansas. We encountered this problem only to learn that the closest hotels were 50 miles from the courthouse and did not have internet access. After much research into the venue, the most effective solution was to set up the war room in a duck-hunting lodge close enough to the courtroom. Some of the challenges that had to be overcome included digging utility trenches to get internet access to outlying buildings. While challenges like this one do not happen often, we are always prepared to think creatively to overcome them.

Challenging Courthouses

And then there are the old, rural county courtrooms wired with two-pronged power, or too little power, no internet connection, and staff unfamiliar with the requirements of trial technology. We have found that solutions may require setting up portable generators and running all grounded power through the windows, multiple MiFi devices, and having detailed discussions with court staff to minimize disruptions.

Some specific examples of courtroom idiosyncrasies include the St. Louis state courthouse where a unique cork flooring helps reduce noise, but as a result prevents a trial technology consultant from using gaffers tape to secure the cables on the floor and ensure safety. Instead, thinking creatively, we worked with the courtroom staff to agree upon using only industrial welcome mats to cover the cables and ensure safety. Or from specific experience we have learned that when in the Philadelphia state court, it is necessary for the trial technology consultant to get permission from the court staff to turn on and off the air-conditioning during sessions due to the noise of aged in-window A/C units. And then we also have to be prepared for the frequent courtroom “pauses” as incessant fire trucks and police sirens circle the building.

Unique Trial Situations

In another recent trial the Court provided a break-out room for the trial team on the 12th floor. The request by the trial team was to have wireless access to the server in the war room located across the street. The reason for the request was so the paralegals could access the server, print documents directly in the courthouse, and ensure all work product remained safe and secure on the server. To accomplish this, our trial technology team beamed internet connectivity with wireless microwave technology to ensure a secure connection.

In some trials and arbitrations, after judges or arbitrators realize the size and complexity of trial teams and presentation equipment, an end of day decision is made to change courtrooms, courthouses, or office buildings and be ready to go first thing in the morning. Moving companies and an all-hands call made relocating and resetting the entire system possible. Moving companies are also helpful when the courthouse has elevators too small to accommodate large exhibit boards, printers, and copiers and everything needs to be hauled up staircases.

And finally, some courthouses are historic and simply deserving of special treatment. When the trial presentation consultant is tasked with setting up presentation equipment in a historically preserved court, such as the fabulously tiled and mahogany-appointed courtroom where Albert Einstein was sworn in as a citizen, the room gives you pause. It also encourages a fastidious approach to using quality gaffers tape to secure cables and leaving the courtroom in pristine condition upon departure.

Special Technology Challenges

In the middle of a five-week trial last year with an elaborate war room set up at the closest hotel to the courthouse, the hotel informed us for the first time that the city scheduled the power to go out for four or five hours during the evening, which happened to be a night when  the team needed to continue working. After much debate, we decided that a quick trip to the store and the purchase of battery-powered LED camping lanterns solved the lighting issue. Data critical to continued work was copied locally to laptops and UPS devices kept the power flowing to the laptops. Problem solved.

International Challenges

International depositions, hearings, arbitrations, and trials are becoming more commonplace for US companies and their trial teams. Preplanning and reconnaissance efforts are essential to working in a foreign country. A few of the issues trial presentation consultants need to address include:

  • Travel papers (passports and visas),
  • Customs paperwork that needs to be completed in time for all your supplies and exhibits to be delivered,
  • Shipping protocols to insure on-time delivery,
  • Voltage issues, if the country you are traveling to uses a different power system,
  • Office equipment,
  • Local transportation,
  • Local customs, and
  • Back-up plans for copying, printing, internet access, and presentation equipment.

Adaptability and Ingenuity Required

The ability to adapt to unusual and often unforeseen circumstances is a critically needed skill set for trial presentation consultants.  Sometimes innovative thinking is required when pressurized challenges arise.  A seasoned trial presentation consultant will bring a cool head and provide outside-the-box ingenuity that will ensure the trial proceeds successfully and smoothly.