it really takes the pressure out of taking records and allows the person to concentrate on what they're hearing."
Malia agrees with Leonard. She said, "It's much easier to transcribe cases this way as opposed to taking two or three hours of proceedings without a break, and it's a much more productive way to do the job. In the past, it wasn't unusual to sit in on a three-day trial that may never be appealed and may never have anyone request the transcripts. You end up wasting your talents, energy and production. This way, we only concentrate on what is appealed and everything else is recorded and available on tape for future reference."
The digitization of the audio also makes it easy to tell who's speaking, which can be very difficult on traditional audio tape. Malia explained that, with digital tape technology, voices can be isolated. "Different voices can be turned on or off, or if someone is talking over another person, you can isolate a voice and listen to it and cut to the other voice. Of course, the crispness of the audio makes it easier to hear as well."
Stereo speakers help the process by separating the voice by earphone. Reporters are able to visually note who and where the person is in the room and distinguish who is talking by certain identifiable tones either heard more, or less, in each ear. "We also use forms and ask participants to identify themselves," said Malia. "In Allegheny this has been made easier because of the full cooperation of the people involved. We've been fortunate because people are very willing to help obtain a good record. It makes monitoring go smoothly and allows the equipment to do what it's supposed to do."
Once the audio is stored on the hard drive it is available to anybody or any client who works on the LAN. Session lists are loaded onto a retriever where they can be viewed on the end user's screen. Users can select all, part or multiple sessions for the server to upload from the DAT or CD-ROM and download right onto their computer. Once downloaded the user can opt to review it, transcribe it or perform a high-speed reproduction onto a regular cassette.
"There are many inherent advantages in this kind of system," said Treinis. "The audio is available for anyone -- from an attorney to a judge to a jury -- to play back. For example, if a judge wants to hear proceedings in his or her chambers, he or she can upload the DAT and play a piece of audio."
As is the case with most automation processes, jobs often change and resources are allocated in different ways. CourtSmart shifts the work and changes a court reporter's job description. Malia has enthusiastically embraced the technology. "I feel what I'm doing is still the work of a court reporter," she said. "I'm just doing it a little differently to keep pace with technology.
"I relish the change and want the opportunity to do interesting things with computers. Instead of sitting in a court and writing hearings all day -- the majority of which may never be appealed -- I am being more productive and efficient with my use of time and labor than I was before."
The bottom line, as with most automation projects, is taxpayer dollars and the allocation thereof. CourtSmart offers a cost-effective advantage over traditional methods. "Taxpayer courts have to be efficient," said Treinis. "Judges are starting to ask reporters why they are so far behind on their transcript work. But there are more and more cases, a huge backlog and rising costs. Reporters are making a lot of money and our taxes aren't going up proportionately. The biggest single source of expenditure is labor. We have to look to ways to automate and make jobs more efficient. That's what CourtSmart is all about."
Michelle Gamble-Risley is the publisher of California Computer News. E-mail: < mrisley@ccnmag. com >.
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