JuryStar: Nifty Bits, Needs Refining

Since the the creation of the iPad companies have been trying to make it work in the court room. In particular, we want something that will work in jury trials. JuryStar is a more recent competitor in this space.  It’s primarily a tool for jury selection and I suspect it may work better in jurisdictions outside of Virginia where individual voir dire is the norm; here we bring out the entire group and question them all together. Still, I think it does some interesting things, but I think it is weak in practical usage.

When you open JuryStar it starts with a fairly generic “select the trial” page. All you can do on this page is create a case, delete a case, or select a case to enter into. It’s pretty straight forward.

Once you’ve chosen which trial you are going to prepare for, you can move to the “Questions” section. On the left side of this you enter topics you want to emphasize and the right you to list the questions you intend to ask in each of these sections. For each topic you enter you also enter a letter representing that topic.

The next section is the juror information section. There are a large number of squares at the bottom. You tap one one of the boxes and tap the button which says Enter Demographic Info. A box pops up for data entry. Of course, it starts with the name of the individual and then there is a section for the entry of demographic information and another for general notes. Presumably, this is to be done with whatever information your locality allows you prior to trial.

This is also the section wherein you place the jurors in their positions in the jury box. You tap the juror to be placed and then tap the jury box at the top where he is to be placed.

Here is where I ran into the first problem with the program. I cannot answer for the entirety of Virginia, but I have done jury trials in several jurisdictions and never seen jurors called in by number. They are called in by name. Even if I have entered 40 jurors’ information into their individual numbered slots, I have no way of telling which of the 40 is John Smith so that I can place him in jury box number 1. This renders the program ineffective unless you practice in a jurisdiction that does use numbers when it calls the jurors.

Next is the section to be used during questioning. This is the part that I thought was nifty. You tap on a defendant and a topic then you ask your questions. As you do so, you move the slide on the screen so that a positive number or negative number is assigned to the juror for that topic. When done you tap the button on the right and the scores are put in the box above next to the code you entered earlier for each topic. I think it will work wonderfully in jurisdictions where individual voir dire is done and it will work well in Virginia where group voir dire is done.

This is a clever way of keeping score. It does not allow for specific notes as to the answers by individuals and this could prove problematic while defending that Batson claim after peremptory strikes. The program does allow you to open the juror back up and type notes in, but that’s not practical while questioning. This is not the programmer’s fault. Apple chose not have a stylus and most don’t buy them. Therefore, the programmer has to create ways to make a system work without the ease of quickly written hand notes. This is an innovative way of attempting to do that.

Finally, there’s the page for jury strikes. You tap the juror and then tap the party who has struck her. Under the party, the juror reverts to a box with a number on it. This page is almost entirely useless and could even be problematic.

To begin with, I couldn’t find a way to put a juror back in the box or move her to a different party if accidentally put under the incorrect party. I guarantee that someone (most likely me) would be fumble fingered or acting too quickly and make a mistake. There has to be some way to remedy this. Maybe I missed it, but I tried everything I could think of to put a juror back in the box and failed.

Fundamentally, the reason that you are keeping track of whom the parties have struck is in case you need to make a Batson motion after the parties have completed their peremptory strikes. In order to do this you need, at the very least, the ethnicity and gender of the struck jurors listed. All we get are the numbers of the struck jurors. Even when you tap the number you don’t get the juror’s information. You have to go back to one of the prior pages to access that information.

This program needs work, but there are some cool ideas in there.

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iClient for iPad

Disclaimers, qualifiers, and other tid-bits to provide prospective:

I work in a prosecutor’s office in Virginia with a paperless filing and data-storage system. Attorneys in our office have a primary computer (some of us have PC’s others have Macs) to use in the office and an iPad to use on the go. I use my standard issue iPad everyday in court to access the Virginia code, Supreme Court Rules, various state and local agency websites and most importantly our court’s paperless filing system. An Otterbox Defender protects my machine from the dangers of the daily grind.

First Impressions:

I finished the download from the App Store and prepared to dig in. I had the iPad in the landscape position in the built-in stand of the Otterbox Defender. The first thing I noticed about the iClient app is the auto rotating screen I’ve grown to love on the iPad is frozen in place in the vertical orientation. The screen lock was off. The app wouldn’t rotate. A vertical screen orientation would probably be a small gripe for most but I am accustomed to using the built in stand of the Otterbox in landscape.

Overview:

After coming to terms with the immutable screen orientation and moving past my disproportionate disappointment I jumped in and started exploring. The iClient app is geared toward attorneys in private practice with different types of cases who sit down with clients for intake meetings. Clients are organized alphabetically and by case type so they are easy to find. Provided are standard intake forms with predictable data fields. Attorneys unsatisfied with the standard form have the ability to customize data fields; adding and labeling as many as needed.

True to its name, iClient’s organization centers around the client and allows a simple way to organize multiples cases a involving one client. A given case’s schedule is also easily accessed and kept tidy with the app. The app has the ability to keep up with court dates and email reminders and has a function to track what has been done and what needs to be done regarding a case (e.g. discovery, subpoenas, depositions).

The ability to customize iClient’s data fields makes it useful to attorneys across the board regardless of what area of practice, public or private. Based on the data fields provided in the standard forms the developers had private practice attorneys in mind when iClient was created but the app is easily adapted for use with the cases I handle as a prosecutor.

The Downside:

iClient is as good as advertised BUT, it can’t overcome the obstacle many other apps for the iPad face: no good way to enter data. Unlike apps such as Evernote which users can enter data through other hardware and then sync the data with the same app on the iPad, iClient has no companion program for a PC or other Mac hardware. The user is left with the iPad itself as the point of data entry, which as anyone using the tablet for more than marble balancing games knows, can be a pain.

Without a “sync” type ability, using iClient for a firm’s primary client data storage is impractical and unrealistic. The inability to move data from the iPad to other platforms is like a six lane highway bottlenecking onto a narrow dirt road. The app does have potential and the downside is fixable but I would not recommend this app as is for it’s intended purpose.

Josh “G.B.” Newberry

 

UPDATE:  It appears the developer has updated the app, and data can now be entered in both landscape and portrait mode, solving some original complaints I had with the app.

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The Digital US Supreme Court

Last week I learned HERE that US Supreme Court Justice Scalia reads case briefs on an iPad. Newly appointed Justice Kagan is also digital, and reads her case briefs on a Kindle. Check out her comments in this video:

Glad to see the Supreme Court adopting technology to save time and paper.

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Excellent Tutorial on Creating Digital Signatures

I’ve been using a digital signature for a long time, and I recently ran across this excellent tutorial on how to create your own.  Check it our if you are interested.  It can save you a lot of paper.

How to create a digital signature stamp in Acrobat from Digital Workflow CLE on Vimeo.

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iJuror for the iPad

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Fastcase: Research on the iPad

Fastcase is now offering a free research service on the iPad. While most of you are probably familiar with Lexis and Westlaw, Fastcase is a service those of us in Virginia are familiar with because it has a contract with our Bar to allow us free legal research. It’s a solid service which provides every basic need that a courtroom attorney would need.

The app on the iPad is free with an option to pay money to get some additional services. However, the free services are pretty much everything you’d need for quick, off the cuff research of caselaw or statutes while you are in a courtroom.

(note: click on the images in order to view them full size)

When you first log in you are given a choice between searching caselaw, searching statutes, or browsing statutes. Note that the interface has large enough, simply laid out options so that you don’t have to zoom in or tap the screen several times in order to hit the button you are trying to hit.

The search page gives you a number of fairly standard options to select from. Among other things, these allow you to choose the jurisdiction you are searching, the dates for the search, and how you want the results sorted. When you tap on one of the selections it will give you a menu which allows you to scroll through and further hone your choices. After that, you tap in the spot for the entry of the search terms and the on-screen keyboard pops up to let you enter your search terms.

Once you’ve entered your search term, you have get a screen which is a list of possible cases to view (or statute if you are searching statutes). Each has a brief quote from the case including the search term you enter in order to help you decide which case you want to view. Once you tap on a case, it pulls that case up on the screen and your search terms are highlighted.

All-in-all, this is an excellent tool for in court usage (when you desperately need to find that case) or on the road when you need to look up a case while traveling. It will not displace the need for your laptop or desktop when you are writing briefs, petitions, etc., but it’s a useful tool for those occasions when you can’t just whip the laptop out and start typing away.

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iPad Makes Inroads Into Government Service

While we’ve been using the iPad here for a while, other localities in Virginia have begun to adopt the tablets as a way to trim the budget. The latest adopter is the City Council of Williamsburg.

Williamsburg is hoping to save $2,000 a year by using the iPads rather than generating the mounds of papers which are needed for meetings and inter-office memos and legal papers and everything else that council members need. Now they will be able to generate the documents on their computers and send them to each council member’s iPad via email or Dropbox or Evernote or any number of other means and never have to waste paper and ink printing any of it out.

It’s a good plan. The iPad a useful tool for the modern office. As everyone reading this blog knows, we have done our best to become as paperless as possible in the Wise Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. Both our Circuit Court Clerk’s office and our office have developed similar programs which allow us to both view the Clerk’s file and our office file via any computer. Using the iPad allows us to use these rather than running off copies for court. Prior to the iPad you either printed papers from your office computer or packed up that desktop and carried it to court every day. The tablet is also useful for accessing statutes and cases online when you need to do some quick research in the courtroom. No need to copy statutes from books or print cases from Lexis. Personally, I find the most useful app to be Evernote, which allows me to enter .pdf documents from a case file on my regular computer as well as personal notes and then access them on all my computers. It is particularly useful on the iPad. The combination of the Evernote and the iPad has allowed me to stop taking any files to court. I’m sure that a little ingenuity on the part of the Williamsburg City Council will make the iPad at least as useful for them as it is for us.

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The Sewell Minideck

Cross posted from my blawg, CrimLaw.

I was given the Sewell Minideck to review on my blawg, CrimLaw, but it worked well and I thought I’d cross post the review here.

This is a useful device which will allow you to hook multiple monitors to your computer. It’s amazing how quickly you come to rely on having three monitors running at the same time. Right now I’m sitting at my desk with the primary monitor (the one built into the Mac) displaying a browser (Opera), one displaying Evernote, and the last has TweetDeck up. Heck, I wish I had another monitor, or two, up and running because now whenever I need to use Lotus Symphony or a second browser I have to minimize TweetDeck or Evernote; I may just have to buy another Minideck. Or two. Or three. Having multiple monitors running at the same time turns out to be a convenience I never knew I needed, but now don’t want to do without.

Caveat: Have some realistic expectations for this product. You’re not going to pump enough video through a USB cord to render the 3D graphics in Space Warriors on the Zombie Planet of Doom 6: The Awakened Re-Reckoning. Still, it’s perfect for office use.

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AnyBizSoft: PDF to Word for Mac

Our office received a free review download of AnyBizSoft’s PDF to Word for Mac and Ron asked me if I’d review it for The Digital Office.

Ease of Use: 5 out of 5

Output: 2.7 out of 5

In operation, this program is simplicity itself. When you first pull it up you get a blank square with a CONVERT button at the bottom.

All you have to do is use the mouse to click and drag .pdf files into the box and click convert. There’s very little else you can do. The only setting you can really change is whether the output will be .doc or .rtf. It was a little disappointing that the program converts into .rtf rather than .odt, as .rtf is a relic of a bygone era and .odt is the modern multi-platform format. However, that’s more of an advanced user complaint and it is hard to fault the program much for this flaw because most people won’t use anything other than .doc because of Word’s predominance.

Below is a picture of the program set to convert to .doc (left) and .rtf (right).

Once you have entered as many .pdf files as you wish to convert, you click the CONVERT button and they are rather quickly converted to the output format. I’m going to concentrate on the .doc format and assume that the .rtf conversions will contain the usual flaws which occur when one uses that format. And, as I said above, I don’t imagine many people will use any format but .doc anyway.

I put 5 files through the conversion process.

The first was this week’s court docket. We get this via email every week in a .pdf format. After conversion, this would only show blank screens when I used Lotus Symphony or OpenOffice to view it. However, in Word the entire docket came up, but it was basically converted into an image which made it even less useful than the .pdf file was. I rate this as a 1 out of 5.

The second was a law review article which I had downloaded from Lexis. It converted this so that it looked exactly like the law review article. The conversion worked in Lotus Symphony and OpenOffice as well as Word. The only difference was that the Lexis graphic only appeared when I used Word. I rate this as a 4.5 out of 5.

The third was a document which came when I got DropBox for the iPad and it had several graphics included in it with the text formed around it. This converted perfectly when I used the .doc file in Word, in the other word processors it converted the text but did not show the graphics. I rate this a 5 out of 5 (AnyBizSoft made no claims as to any program but Word).

The fourth was a brief I had previously written and converted into a .pdf via Lotus Symphony. When it was converted it looked almost exactly as it did in the .pdf. There were some flaws which appeared no matter which word processor I used. Things I had underlined (such as case names) had a [tab] added at the end with the underlining continuing. As well, the right side of each line was a hard return rather than a margin. Thus, if I went to add something the line extended off the right side off the page and when it finally moved to the next line it did not join the line below it, but forced the lower line to go down a line. I rate this a 3 out of 5.

The fifth was a sentencing guidelines document. This is a .pdf which has blanks where information can be added. After conversion, when I looked at this on Word, it got the formatting perfectly, but where the information had been entered it was blank. I rate this a 0 out of 5.

Overall Recommendation: If you are looking to convert simple documents this program may prove useful, but it is not robust enough to be something relied upon in an office receiving multiple .pdf’s from various sources or those using the more advanced features of .pdf

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How to save files from your iPad to DropBox

Did you know you can easily save files to your DropBox account from your iPad? All you need is a free DropBox account and GoodReader. GoodReader is a file management system for the iPad, and the best .99 cents you will spend on an app.

Follow along on the screenshots after the jump below to see how easy it is to save files to DropBox.

Read the rest of this entry »

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