by Monica Chamness
The Northeast Florida Paralegal Association met Thursday at The River Club to hear Geoffrey Sourbeer, court technology officer for the 4th Judicial Circuit, speak on the technology that will be installed in the new Duval County Courthouse.
Sourbeer, and a number of government officials such as Sheriff Nat Glover, Public Defender Lou Frost, State Attorney Harry Shorstein, Court Administrator Britt Beasley, seven local judges and a group from the City, took tours of three other Florida courthouses.
“What I discovered from talking with my contemporaries in other circuits [is that] the thing you want to look at when building technology for a courthouse is not the products that are going in there,” he said. “You need to look at the wiring that’s going to go in there. If those aren’t compatible, you can’t make use of that technology.”
Sourbeer says the new courthouse will incorporate a combination of wire and wireless technologies. To circumvent the visible intrusion of technology in the courtroom, officials hope to build the infrastructure so that the technology will be hidden. Raised flooring is one solution they are studying.
“Judges like the technology but they don’t want to see it,” said Sourbeer. “Wires can be an eyesore.”
Features for the bench include accessibility to case information and histories, in addition to the readily-available Internet access for legal research. Attorneys will also have Internet access and the use of evidence display systems, which can project enlarged images.
Sourbeer believes judges will make use of video teleconferencing for first appearances and possibly for some high profile trials. Wireless networks, currently in use in Nassau County, may also make an appearance. Digital court reporting systems, which store audio input on compact discs, can immediately convert transcripts into legible English. Document imaging is another innovation they’re trying to secure for the bench. At a cost of about $3 million though, it may be too pricey.
“The advantage of the new structure is that it should get us through to 2015,” said Sourbeer.