Technology and the Court of Law

By Daryl Williams, Partner and Attorney at Law, Baird Williams & Greer, Attorneys at Law 

At Baird Williams & Greer, we are strong supporters of technology in the courtroom. In fact, we work with TrailDirector, to keep organized in the office and present a stronger case in the courtroom.

Derek Miller, Chief Executive Officer and President of inData Corporation, the makers of TrialDirector, says, “The use of technology in the courtroom allows the attorney to quickly and efficiently focus on the key elements of their case. The ability to call out a specific paragraph of a document and highlight the area at issue keeps the judge’s and/or jury’s attention on what you want them to remember.”

Although I too am a strong a proponent of technology, I believe that there is a time and place for technology and the courtroom. Take Justice Antonin Scalia for example. Some say he made shrewd rulings on tech-related cases. Shrewd is the wrong word because it connotes some sort of practical cleverness. Sagacious is a better word. His view of the law was to apply it to facts, not rewrite the law to arrive at a result.

When it came to technology, application of scientific advances for practical purposes, Scalia was able to relate what was at work to legal precedent in a particularly keen, discerning way, even with technological advances new to him. For instance, technology allows a police helicopter to overfly a backyard and see what is happening without a warrant, but using technology to see infrared images of what is happening behind the walls of one’s home needs a warrant even though there is no observation through the wall, just the reflections “off-the-wall” on the outside of the house. Not at all, then, like looking at the backyard from a helicopter. 

Scalia could judge the watershed between the such uses, unshackling the Fourth Amendment’s warrantless search prohibition from the law of trespass, which had been its bedrock well into the Twentieth Century. The violation of a subjective expectation of privacy applied to societal norms is the original bedrock, perhaps, but that means understanding what is at play so far as the Constitution is concerned and what is at work with the technology.

His replacement

Furthermore, Justice Scalia’s replacement does not need to be technologically savvy; in fact, being too much of a geek could cloud the judgment needed. What geek does not think use should be made of the new advance? Sagacious application of principles to facts, on the other hand, can uphold Constitutional rights over technological possibilities.

A Supreme Court justice needs to know the law, the Constitution, and what the Constitution protects. The jurist needs to be quick enough to parse the explanations of what technology does—the onus being on the parties to explain it—and apply judicial skills to arrive at a conclusion whether use of technology violates the law or the Constitution.”

Some think Justice Scalia was avant-garde in his approach to technology. A closer look shows he was reaching deeply into the past, finding original intent, and applying it today. He would not let technology destroy the Constitutional bedrock of our society.

About Daryl Williams, Attorney at Law, Baird Williams & Greer Attorneys at Law

Daryl M. Williams is an AV-rated trial lawyer, a distinction awarded to preeminent lawyers. He has conducted more than 100 jury trials involving commercial litigation matters. His largest jury award resulted in a judgement nearing $60 million for an international breach-of-contract case involving claims against the world’s largest childcare provider, a multi-billion dollar company.