Separate but interdependent. The notion is that our judicial system, based on adversarial participants, can still somehow work together for the common good.
As George Nicholson and Jeffery A. Hogge point out in their essay, "Retooling Criminal Justice," nearly 50 years ago U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson spoke on the issue: "While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity."
More recently, Judge Deanell Reece Tacha of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which spans the Rocky Mountains, expressed the same concept: "Common sense supports the notion that the public good -- and the economy -- would be served by enhanced communications between the branches. ... Separation was not intended to mean alienation or to create antagonistic positions."
Despite this wisdom, our adversarial criminal-justice system is severely restricting the flow of information at a time when interdependence is needed more than ever. While crime is dropping, caseloads are rising, thanks to more aggressive policing throughout the country. Costs are also rising as lawyers file more documents and briefs on behalf of their clients, clerks struggle to process the paperwork and judges spend more time plowing through massive fields of paper documents in an attempt to rule on an ever-increasing number of cases.
The growing problem has set off alarms in the judicial community. Lawyers, judges and judicial experts have expressed concerns that the public is not receiving swift and fair justice because the current system is so bogged down in paperwork. It doesn't have to be this way, of course. Technology exists that can streamline the paper process from the moment of arrest to the jury's verdict. So why isn't technology making things better?
In a series of in-depth articles, Government Technology will examine our justice system and the role of technology. First, we investigate the existing situation. With California as a case study, we look at the burden paper documents have placed on today's judicial system and the barriers that have thwarted the move to integrated justice, including the state's struggles with collaboration, funding, privacy and politics.
Second, we will present the ideal solution. What would a fully integrated justice system look like? To find out, we'll examine some of the efforts already under way at the state and local levels around the country. Experts will also voice their opinions on what kind of integrated justice system we should have. And we'll look at some of the technological components that will make it all happen.
Third, we'll examine what it will take to move from today's paper-choked judicial system to tomorrow's electronic solution. We will look at what the federal government is doing to foster judicial collaboration using technology, how states are breaking down statutory, legal and political barriers to integration, and what technical hurdles must be overcome.
We hope this fresh look at justice and technology will open the door to more meaningful efforts at enhancing and sustaining the judicial system as it was first envisioned by our forefathers.
The Simpson Factor
While many question whether justice prevailed in O.J. Simpson's criminal trial, most would agree that technology did. The trial, which spanned 256 days, 126 witnesses and 1,105 exhibits, was a showcase for modern court technology. Computers allowed lawyers to rapidly search databases of documents, photos and graphics, enlarge and display them on huge projection screens and use light pens to draw on monitor images.
Unfortunately, the technology used at the Simpson trial was hardly typical of today's courtroom. The nearly $100,000 in state-of-the-art hardware and software was donated by publicity-hungry firms. And there were still reams of paper documents generated during the pretrial process. If the