Why I’m Not Going Paperless at Trial
Assuming my habeas corpus motion is denied, I’m picking my first jury in about six weeks. Pretty scary stuff. I’ve started preparing my trial binder (hope for the best, prepare for the worst, right?) and it’s a real binder. No folders. No apps. Just good old fashioned paper with a three ring binder and lots of dividers. But there’s good reasons to ditch the tech for trials.
No 21st Century Courtrooms
The courtrooms in my county all have big flat screen TVs on wheels. But that’s where tech access ends. There is no wi-fi, and outlets are at a premium. This means if I wanted to use my laptop, I’d have to bring an extra battery just in case. I would also have to somehow lay my laptop/iPad on the ground next to the TV, or wheel the TV next to counsel table. Neither is logistically feasible, or really worth the annoyance. I will have my iPad at counsel table for notes, but that’s about it.
Paper Binders are Easy to Organize
I inherited this case from another attorney. There are over a thousand pages of police reports, eyewitness statements, bank records, etc. So I scanned the discovery productions in two batches (for two different productions) and made them searchable. But naming each document individually or in groups would take a ton of time. So instead I’m organizing a traditional trial binder.
With paper I can easily just put all the pages in order by date and then divide them by witness. I will create a cheat sheet of cross-references (no easy task either) and then I’m done. With my digital OCD I would have needed to create a descriptive name for each document, then filed it for the witness, then been able to access it quickly at trial.
Too Many New Things
Since this will be my first jury trial, I’m naturally terrified. But one thing I don’t want to be terrified of is something breaking. This isn’t a complicated trial. I don’t have any videos or cool graphics to show the jury. There are no depositions I need to display on a screen while I impeach a witness.
There is software that does all those things. I’m looking forward to trying it out and getting familiar with various trial software options in the coming months and years. But not in the month between now and the trial. I figure, I know how paper works. It’s easy. I’ve been using it my whole life. And it never runs out of batteries.