Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

by / February 28, 1999
Editor's Note: Tod Newcombe's December cover story, "Integrated Justice: The Burden of Proof," elicited a flurry of letters from readers. While many readers liked the article and asked for permission to reprint it, a number of court reporters took issue with the idea that public ownership of court transcripts is desirable to facilitate open access, and that the current system of transcript ownership by court reporters is a hindrance to fully integrated justice records. The article was the first of three, with the second running in February and the third slated for April. Readers may send comments and ideas to Maria Fusilero, managing editor.

Disintegrated Justice

Tod Newcombe's article on integrated justice systems [December] starts out with the wrong premise by trying to explain why "technology has failed to integrate our judicial institutions." The article states that the centralized approach to integration is "out of date" and touts client-server as the only way to go.

I work with one of the few integrated justice systems in the nation. The roadblocks to integration of these justice-dispensing departments have to do with how the departments view their role in the system. The technology has been in place for integrated justice systems to thrive for well over a decade and has been in place in a select few California counties for that long (yes, centralized on IBM mainframes running CICS on CA-DATACOM databases); "all" it takes is the collective will of the justice players to make it work. Once the power-brokers in the departments understand that their political and personal ambitions are enhanced by such systems, an integrated justice system is the only thing that makes sense.

If it can work here, it can work anywhere. Don't focus your article on the technology (it's been done and works just fine); focus on the political pitfalls.

Such integration is no different, in a sense, from the integration of various departments within a business. Each department creates and passes on to the next the data necessary to identify the customer and/or product and complete the transaction.

Patrick J. O'Meara
Business System Analyst
San Mateo County, Calif.

What a way to start a new year, reading an article authored by Tod Newcombe fraught with misinformation about the field of court reporting.

Let me apprise you that I was not hired to "prepare transcript." I was hired to make a verbatim record of court proceedings. Regardless of what method you may think is superior to shorthand reporting, it still will require post-hearing preparation of a hard copy of the proceedings, be it video, audio tape recording or steno mask. No appeals court would be willing to let attorneys submit video or audio tapes as the record.

Evidently you are under the assumption that I just push a button and out comes a hard copy of transcript.

The compensation many times does not make up for the hours of sleep, weekends and evenings with my family lost while I labor under a deadline to prepare a hard copy of court proceedings.

Are you aware, also, that while I may collect a paycheck from the court to record court proceedings, I must supply everything save for a desk and a chair? I have my own personal phone line installed in a government building. I provide all my own paper, computer, printer and every sundry item necessary to run an office, from paper clips to Kleenex.

At the end of the year, when I minus my expenses from my transcript earnings and then pay taxes, my net profit is almost laughable.

Please don't compare me to one or two aberrations in the field. That would be like comparing every attorney to Johnnie Cochran or every doctor to the multimillion-dollar-earning plastic surgeon.

Andrea Egan
Official Court Reporter
United States District Court
Eastern District of Michigan -- Detroit

"In the first of a three-part series on integrated justice, Government Technology examines why technology has failed to integrate our judicial institutions." ["Integrated Justice," December]. I certainly hope you will see to it that a more complete picture is presented. Court reporters are highly skilled professionals, which is why 300 to 400 pages of verbatim transcript can be prepared so quickly for use by other court personnel. Methods of payment vary from court to court, and I do not know what the situation is in the court to which this article refers. I am sure you will be hearing from court-reporting organizations as well as other court reporters encouraging you to check the facts carefully before painting a picture that we are overpaid.

Norma Hatfield
Federal Official Court Reporter
Southern District of Georgia
Brunswick, Ga.

Facing the Future

The editorial "Electronic Commerce and Sovereignty" [December] was concise, yet excellent.

Today's corporations are engaged in fierce competition from every corner of the globe. To survive, companies are seeking new and innovative strategies to increase revenue, improve customer satisfaction and remain viable. According to the Department of Commerce report, "The Emerging Digital Economy,"

* Internet traffic is doubling every 100 days, yielding a yearly growth rate of more than 700 percent.
* Between 1993 and 1997, the number of Internet users rocketed from 3 million to more than 100 million.
* Information technologies have driven more than 25 percent of real economic growth over the past five years.
* Workers in the software and services industry made an average of $46,000 last year, well above the $28,000 average wage for the private sector.
* Business-to-business transactions on the Internet will likely surpass $300 billion by 2002.

Small businesses with 10 to 99 employees may be the fastest-growing segment in today's market. They account for 65 percent of the commercial PC market and are projected to grow another 43 percent.

Studies also show that small businesses are underinvested in technology and looking for ways to use technology to stay competitive.

The growth in the small-business computer market may be fueled by the improvements made in the price vs. performance of hardware. In addition, application software has been significantly enhanced. Small-business owners also now see the benefits of multimedia, online services and Internet and intranet usage.

Only by embracing new business and market models, adopting interactive and network technologies, can management prepare their businesses for the realtime marketplace of the 21st century.

Jimmy Castro
Member, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
Austin, Texas


I recently read your article about the use of the Internet for law enforcement and criminal justice information ["Web Sites Extend the Law's Long Arm," November].

It was an excellent article that aids in demonstrating the benefits of innovative information-sharing techniques. It also captured the new trend of criminal justice practitioners generating useful sites with some simple, common software and a little self-motivation. I have noticed this trend over the past year while continuing the development of the Web of Justice Internet Exploration Guide for criminal justice.

I welcome you to check out my site.

I have been trying to maintain a comprehensive listing of the thousands of criminal justice sites on the Internet, broken down into groups, including sexual predators, rape, geographic information systems, technology, militias, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, law enforcement, courts, corrections and much more.

These sites represent the wonderful determination of all of the individuals within the criminal justice realm to share information among colleagues and with the public.

Again, I enjoyed reading your article and look forward to future articles in Government Technology.

Tim Burns
Justice Programs Analyst
Florida Department of Justice Coordination