In New Mexico's legal system, the Metropolitan Court has the same jurisdiction as a combined magistrate and municipal court.

Paul Roybal is CIO of the Metropolitan Court in New Mexico's Bernalillo County, the only such court in the state and one of the busiest courts in the state. There are 16 judges at Metro Court, which has been called a pioneer for providing free Wi-Fi service for jurors and for other technological initiatives.

You said the "third branch" of government is most in need of a technological revolution but is steeped in tradition. Is there a cultural problem?

Absolutely. My favorite line is, "There will be a paperless bathroom before we see a paperless court."

But you're doing your part in New Mexico to improve the third branch with several technology deployments.

We put wireless access points in our jury room. Jurors can come in with their laptops or PDAs and get on our network to access the Internet.

In the future, we're going to have wireless access available everywhere in the court building. We're going to do wireless voice over IP, which means security and management personnel can carry a wireless telephone with them throughout the facility -- rather than a cell phone -- and not have the dead spots common in large concrete and steel facilities.

That could be just the beginning in terms of wireless technology for court buildings, right?

Absolutely. Other technologies for wireless are video cameras and surveillance. One of the applications we may consider in the future for our security personnel is a camera surveillance system that can be accessed wirelessly with a PDA.

When security personnel get called in the courtroom, they can view on the PDA what's going on before they walk in so they're prepared.

The Metro Court also digitally records all audio in the courtroom during a case, correct?

We're doing it centrally too, which is unique. In a lot of court systems, staff are assigned to monitor each courtroom.

We have 16 courtrooms, and for a good part of the time, those courtrooms sit idle. We centralized our digital recording department, and individual staff can now monitor up to four courtrooms at the same time.

We record it to two servers, a primary and a backup. When enough audio has been recorded to burn a DVD-ROM, it gets burned automatically. But the database is maintained on the system of all the major events in the case. When we need to make a copy of the audio, the courtroom has to do a search on the case number, and all audio portions of that case will be burned to a CD-ROM.

What's unique about the Metropolitan Court's use of video arraignments and video bonding?

In a lot of facilities performing video arraignment and video interviewing, they're using facsimile machines and faxing back and forth to move the paper. We don't do that. We use electronic signature pads to capture signatures.

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor