County has a courtroom of the future. It is one of only
two (state) courtrooms in New York State. The other one is
in New York County. The Onondaga courtroom is located in
Room 308 of the Onondaga County Courthouse. It is well
designed, the technology is fully integrated and the
controls are very user friendly.
The courtroom is a result of the vision and
hard work of Administrative Judge James Tormey and his
legal and technical staff. Although the NYS Office of
Court Administration encouraged development of technology
in the courtroom, OCA failed to provide the funds needed
to fully implement a courtroom of the future. Judge
Tormey searched every nook and cranny of the Fifth
District’s budget to come up with the necessary additional
funds. The courtroom cost well in excess of $200,000 to
It is not insignificant to mention that the
grandeur of the original courtroom was preserved. The
major structural changes to the courtroom involved raising
the floor of the area used by counsel to accommodate
extensive wiring required for the technology devices.
Fundamentally, the courtroom provides improved
audio with provision for hard-of-hearing and foreign
language interpreters, and the ability to record the
proceedings and, at the end of the day, burn an audio CD
of the proceedings. There is also state-of-the-art video
presentation capabilities. Each juror has his or her own
LCD screen to view the video as do each of three counsel
tables, the judge, and the clerk. Two large “white
boards” provide video to the gallery and/or the jury.
All of this is controlled at the podium where
audio levels are set and input devices are selected. In
addition, the judge has an override that provides the
ability to shut down both the audio and video to the jury
and the public white boards. When the judge implements
the override, counsel, the witness, the judge and the
podium still have video input.
Input is possible from
virtually any type of electronic input device. Currently,
the installed devices include a VCR and a Document
Camera. Hookups for computers or other devices are
located at the podium, counsel tables, the judge and the
clerk. Once a computer is connected to the system, Power
Point (or similar) presentations are possible as are other
forms of computer output such as audio clips, video clips,
still pictures, diagrams, simulations and on-and-on.
The Document Camera is a powerful tool. It
allows for projection of almost any type of document. It
also may be used to present a physical object if such
object is no bigger than a breadbox. Actually the lens
can be rotated to view a large object or person standing
next to the camera. This might possibly be useful if the
objective is to focus on a small area of the large object
and present that to the jury. The camera has different
lighting modes so that x-rays can be presented with
In addition to the audio/video presentation
capabilities, there is an “overlay” capability. This
allows the podium, the witness or a presenter at the large
white board to add annotations, diagrams, arrows or
virtually any other type of mark to the video image
currently being displayed. The marks can be made in
different colors to differentiate the person doing the
marking or to suit some other purpose. When markings are
applied in this manner they may be preserved by printing
the image with the markings.
A sophisticated analog printer is built into
the system. This may be one item causing heartburn for
the clients. The printer paper is very
expensive—approximately $5 per page.
The courtroom is also set up for, but not yet
equipped with, video teleconferencing. This could allow
for testimony to be taken remotely in real time.
Courtroom procedure is still being developed
by the judges who use the courtroom. For example, even
before the first trial, Judge Centra noticed that the
judge’s override shut down the witness’ screen. This made
it impractical for the witness to authenticate a document
located at the podium and projected onto the screens. The
override was adjusted to allow the witness to see the
document. The jury and the public would receive no video
signal until the document was accepted into evidence.
Only a few trials have taken place to date. These have
not generated any procedural crises.
providing training on the use of the courtroom. The
training even qualifies for CLE credit. The size of the
sessions are limited because of the limited seating in the
courtroom and to allow for the participants to actually do
some hands on work with the devices.
Link here for the CLE Courtroom
of the Future Schedule.