A courthouse in a West Texas county known for wide-open spaces and dry desert landscapes has just become fully digitized.
On Jan. 17, the 394th Judicial District Court in Brewster County unveiled new technological additions, which included several digital inputs and computer monitors at the bench, lawyers’ tables, and jury box. This technology will be used to display evidence from one computer, the Internet, and even cell phones on screens throughout the courtroom. “Eliminating the voluminous paper exhibits increases courtroom efficiency, reduces overhead and man-hours in the district clerk’s office (which is tasked with storing trial exhibits), and decreases legal fees and expenses paid by litigants,” Judge Roy Ferguson told the Alpine Daily Planet. “Legal research can be performed and presented live in the courtroom.”
While some courts in the state have implemented similar technology, it is less common in rural areas such as Brewster County, which is the largest county in Texas land-wise but home to just one city—Alpine. Still, a digital transition is taking place in many locations throughout the state, partly made more useful by the recent Texas Supreme Court e-filing mandate. In fact, Ferguson told the Daily Planet that the e-filing mandate saved the district enough money to completely pay for the courthouse’s digital update.
According to Ferguson, the next steps in digitizing all five courtrooms in the district likely will include video-conferencing for remote witness appearances and remote live Spanish/English interpretation. For more on the 394th District Court’s digitalization, as well as photos of the courtroom’s new electronic equipment, go to the Alpine Daily Planet at http://alpinedailyplanet.typepad.com/alpine-daily-planet/2014/01/394th-judicial-district-court-now-fully-wired-modernized.html.