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Technology Column

The Judges' Journal Technology Column archive is a complimentary resource provided by the ABA Judicial Division.

Judge Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. retired from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia after thirty years of service. He is a former chair of both the National Conference of State Trial Judges and the A.B.A. Standing Committee on the American Judicial System and a former member of the Techshow Planning Board. You can reach him at [email protected]. Follow Judge Dixon on Twitter @Jhbdixon.


Artificial Intelligence and Bias
Judge Dixon presents his fourth article in a series highlighting limitations of artificial intelligence technology of which readers should be aware. This time, the discussion is on artificial intelligence and bias.


Artificial Intelligence versus Copyright Protections and Data Privacy
Judge Dixon identifies two hotly contested issues involving the creation and use of generative artificial intelligence—copyright protection and data privacy.

Artificial Intelligence - “What Hath God Wrought” 
Though he’s a self-proclaimed fan of artificial intelligence and excited about its capabilities, Judge Dixon warns that we must be aware of every AI product’s limitations and frailties.

My “Hallucinating” Experience with ChatGPT
Judge Dixon undertook an experimental trial run with ChatGPT and ended up with what he calls a “hallucinating” experience. He concludes that this AI-powered software, like many technology-assisted tools available to judges and lawyers, should be used wisely and cautiously.

The Metaverse
Judge Dixon defines some of the technologies that are now forming the building blocks of the Metaverse and lists a few legal and practical issues likely to arise from our future travels into that environment.


Text Messaging—The Digital Evidence Revolution
Text messaging technology has become a dominant form of communication and a frequent evidentiary issue in court proceedings. Judge Dixon discusses the power of text message evidence and its misuse and admissibility.

Scams Againts Lawyers, Professionals, and Other Ordinary People
Judge Dixon discusses low-tech and no-tech scams that disrupt the lives of lawyers, professionals, and other ordinary people. He concludes that everyone is a potential scam target, regardless of their station in life.

Distracted Driving: Using Technology to Solve a Problem Caused by Technology!
As technology increases convenience and eases the burdens of driving, it also leads to more opportunities for distracted driving. Judge Dixon discusses the use of technology to solve those distracted-driving problems.

Response to “The Court Has Been Hacked!”
In this technology column, Judge Dixon discusses a range of standard and innovative cybersecurity measures to avoid a total shutdown of an IT system as described in his previous technology column.


The Court Has Been Hacked!
Judge Dixon conjures up a worst-case scenario of numerous courthouse operations coming to a halt due to a major cybersecurity event.

Tech and No-Tech Security Considerations for Judges
Judge Dixon discusses the need for judges to practice personal security awareness of their environment away from the courthouse, including considerations that involve little or no technology. 

Cell Phones, Social Media, and the Capitol Insurrection 
Judge Dixon describes how so-called anonymous cell phone data again proved to contain a trove of information that, when matched with social media posts, led to the identification and arrest of over 300 (and still counting) individuals facing criminal charges in connection with the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. He concludes with a surprise philosophical question.

Artificial Intelligence: Benefits and Unknown Risks
Artificial intelligence (AI) is not only pervasive in our personal lives, but that same technology has made significant inroads into law-related and criminal justice applications. In this article, Judge Dixon highlights certain AI risks that have raised concerns.


Pandemic Potpourri: The Legal Profession’s Rediscovery of Teleconferencing
Since the nationwide shutdowns caused by the pandemic of 2020, the legal profession has given new consideration for expanded use of teleconferencing to conduct trials and other court proceedings. Judge Dixon rhetorically asks if this is the legal profession’s rediscovery of technology and urges the use of available cybersecurity features to minimize disruption of virtual judicial proceedings and patience as we become accustomed to the new normal. 

Your Cell Phone Is a Spy! 
Judge Dixon discusses the voluminous information our cell phones regularly reveal to third parties about our daily movements and travels and the resulting privacy and security concerns. He admonishes his readers to remember the data is being recorded in a spreadsheet somewhere.

If You Think Your DNA Is Anonymous, Think Again!
Judge Dixon describes the reach of familial search technology that may result in your being pulled unexpectedly into a criminal investigation as a witness, person of interest, or suspect because a familial analysis of crime scene DNA suggests the genetic material came from someone in your family tree.

What Judges and Lawyers Should Understand About Artificial Intelligence Technology
Judge Dixon discusses artificial intelligence (AI) developments and reminds us that the value and utility of the AI results are dependent on the data and information used to generate those results.


Cryptocurrency: The Next Step in the Noncash Era?
Judge Dixon discusses the creation and use, and ups and downs, of cryptocurrency and ends with the question of whether cryptocurrency will ever rival the general acceptance of other noncash options such as checks, credit cards, and mobile payment apps.

Deepfakes: More Frightening Than Photoshop on Steroids
Judge Dixon asks whether the saying “seeing is believing” will lose its meaning as he discusses deepfake technology and its possible effects on election campaigns, business interests, and video evidence in courtrooms.

Embarrassing Redaction Failures
Judge Dixon revisits the subject of redaction failures, which he previously wrote about in 2009 and 2011. He concludes that embarrassing redaction failures are as certain as death and taxes.


Judicial Ethics and the Internet (Revisited)
Judge Dixon tells a cautionary tale about the possible pitfalls of judges engaging in social media activity relating to pending cases and provides a short list of commandments as guides for acceptable conduct for judges using the Internet or thinking about posting on social media.

Cyberattacks on Courts and Other Government Institutions
Judge Dixon warns about the increasing frequency of hacking and other cyberattacks on courts and other government institutions.

Yes, Judges Should Know About Recurring Ethical Issues Involving the Use of Social Media by Lawyers
Judge Dixon offers his opinion that judges should be aware of recurring ethical issues involving the use social media by lawyers and provides a handy “quick perspective” list of commandments about those issues that sometimes play out in the courtroom.

Is Hacking the New Normal?
Judge Herbert Dixon concludes that hacking has become such a prevalent part of today’s technology-driven existence that it is now a part of normal life. To safeguard your digital data, he provides a few basic guidelines.


The Basics of a Technology-Enhanced Courtroom
Judge Dixon discusses the basics of a technology-enhanced courtroom for today’s high-tech generation and others in the legal profession that must still understand the basic setup. 

The Wonderful and Scary Internet of Things!
Judge Dixon follows up his article from the previous issue that dealt with the possibility of Internet devices spying on us with this column that indulges fears of technology by discussing the ways in which we are vulnerable. He also considers resulting lawsuit and courtroom dynamics involved with data captured and stored on our devices.

Is Your Internet Device Spying on You?
To remind readers of proven, commonsense actions to protect privacy and digital data, Judge Dixon asks the provocative question: Is your Internet device

Another Harsh Spotlight on Forensic Sciences
Judge Herbert Dixon reports on a recent special report to the president by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which causes him to revisit the subject of his technology column written seven years about the state of forensic sciences.


#AI, #VR, and #IoT Are Coming to a Courthouse Near You!
The Judges’ Journal technology columnist proposes examples of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), and the Internet of Things (IoT) that may find their way into your courthouse in the near future.

Telephone Technology versus the Fourth Amendment
Judge Dixon reviews that which he considers a never-ending battle between the advancement of telephone technologies and the extent of the protection provided by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


Technology and the Future of Legal Services 
The ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services has generated much discussion about ways to address the huge market of unmet legal needs. This column explores some technology possibilities for consideration by the Commission.

The End of Privacy as We Know It?
Judge Dixon discusses from the perspective of the pessimist, optimist, and pragmatist the results of a Pew Research Center survey that asked experts what the public’s view and expectation of privacy will be in the next 10 years.

Technological Advancements Coexisting with Tech Stagnation
Judge Dixon updates technology advances discussed in three previous columns and stresses a particular concern he has about failures in cyber security defenses.


Technology Changes Coming Faster and Faster
The Judges’ Journal technology columnist introduces this special technology issue by commenting on the resistance of some to the intrusion of technology into their professional lives, the need for members of the profession to be aware of the ethical obligations resulting from the use of technology, and the need to keep abreast of advancements.

Technology and the Law 50 Years Ago
In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the Appellate Judges Conference, Judge Dixon compares aspects of appellate and trial practice of 50 years ago with the practice today and reviews a few predictions made in 1964 of what the world would be like in 2014.

Worst Passwords of 2013: password & 123456
After seeing a compilation of 2013’s worst passwords, Judge Herbert Dixon revisits the issue of cybersecurity to remind readers of the importance of creating strong passwords for online accounts to avoid becoming a cyber-victim and suffering financial, data, or privacy losses.

Scientific Fact or Junk Science? Tracking a Cell Phone without GPS
Increasingly, competing experts are offering opposing opinions on the reliability of determining the approximate location of a cell phone. In this article, Judge Dixon highlights the significant arguments by both sides and discusses the technology on which these arguments are based.


Information Technology Disaster Recovery Planning for Court Institutions 
The creation and development of an Information Technology Disaster Recovery Plan for a court is an extremely complex, detailed, and technical process. Judge Dixon outlines some of the considerations that must be a part of any court’s effort to effectively develop such a plan.

Technology and the Courts: A Futurist View
Judge Dixon takes stock of the increasing use of technology in court and litigation practices and offers his predictions of court technology developments in the near and distant future.

iPad Wizardry for Beginners 
Judge Dixon provides a narrative step-by-step description of some iPad basics for beginners and others who are in the learning or get-acquainted process with their iPads. He also requests feedback from readers on the desirability of an occasional technology column geared toward beginners.

Human Trafficking and the Internet* (*and Other Technologies, too) 
Judge Dixon reports on instances in which human trafficking is both facilitated and combatted by the Internet and other technologies. In addition, he discusses the efforts of academia and private industry to expand the use of technology to disrupt and combat human trafficking.


Cybersecurity...How Important Is It?
Judge Dixon discusses the importance of cybersecurity as a priority of the United States and the American Bar Association, tells the story of a prominent technology writer who was the victim of malicious computer hacking, and gives practical suggestions of steps people can take to strengthen their defenses to a cyber attack.

Automating the Search and Review of ESI
With the huge increase in records that are stored and maintained electronically, some storage units amount to billions of pages. Computer-assisted review may afford a solution to the skyrocketing costs of discovery by making it easy to search for relevant electronic documents. These new technologies offer hope of some savings from the cost of human page-by-page review and the possibility of increased accuracy.

Cloud Computing
The movement toward cloud computing, which allows users to access programs and files over the Internet, is undeniable. The costs are now within everyone’s economic reach, with basic services being free in many instances. The author lists several well-known cloud storage and file management service companies and offers words of caution in case those companies go out of business or experience technical problems.

Giving a Wireless iPad Presentation: Where Perfect Is the Enemy of Good
There is a certain thrill to walking around with an iPad making a wireless presentation—even if the necessary extra equipment required is a nuisance.


Texting, Tweeting, and Other Internet Abbreviations
It’s time to get up to speed on the linguistic shortcuts used in communications sent by text, tweet, instant messaging, and other new media. Featured is a glossary of often-used abbreviations to convey your mood, offer a disclaimer, show your affection, and close a message.

Judge Dixon updates a few of his previous technology columns to include additional information and developments on metadata, Facebook’s face recognition technology, the auto text feature that makes for more efficient use of the BlackBerry, and how difficult it is to avoid juror misconduct when jurors use cell phones and Internet social media sites.

We've Got Mail, and You Can't Have It
Those seeking to obtain electronic information and communications from an Internet or e-mail service provider by use of a civil discovery subpoena should be aware of the limitation imposed by the Stored Communications Act. It’s important to understand that the line between electronic communication services and remote computing services is not always clearly delineated, and you may want to seek the discovery from the party or witness directly.

PowerPoint Jury Instructions
When I started discussing my experience giving jury instructions by PowerPoint, I unleashed a torrent of anti-PowerPoint invective. I understand the naysayers. However, I now have something beyond anecdotal evidence to support the premise that PowerPoint enhances the jury’s understanding of lengthy, boring jury instructions. I now have data!


The Black Hole Effect: When Internet Use and Judicial Ethics Collide
A black hole is a region in outer space caused by a compact mass that sucks everything toward it and from which nothing, including light, can escape. The phenomenon is, therefore, analogous to the Internet and the trouble in which some judges find themselves when, drawn to its communications conveniences, they cross a line into a place from which it is very difficult to escape with their reputations intact.

Developing an Addiction to Your BlackBerry in 13 Easy Steps
Some of my colleagues fight valiantly against the BlackBerry thrust upon them. I, however, begin my day by using it as backup alarm clock. I proceed immediately to late night e-mail and early morning news. I depend on it to help me get through the rest of my day. You can, too.

Guarding Against the Dreaded Cyberspace Mistrial and Other Internet Trial Torpedoes
The doomsayers predicted it, the pessimists worried about it, and the naysayers said it would not be a problem. Now, though, it is definitely happening—mistrial by Google, as it is sometimes called, the phenomenon whereby jurors utilize smart phones and laptops to surf the Internet for information or discuss a case online. What can be done to stop it? Jury instructions may be your first line of defense.


Forensic Science Under the Spotlight
This column discusses the National Research Council report on the nation’s badly frayed forensic science system. Obtain the report and get a head start on these issues. You are likely to soon see challenges to forensic evidence play out in your courtroom.

Two Monitors Are Better Than One
Just when nearly everyone you know is finally using a computer, someone comes up with the idea using of two monitors instead of one. Can anything good come of this? Is this merely another example of one-upmanship among geeks? There is something good about this idea. Besides, you’ve been doing the paper equivalent of dual monitors for a long time.

I Never Meta Data I Didn’t Like
If metadata is not removed from an electronic document before it is distributed, the sender may share with everyone who acquires the document information that is confidential, privileged, or highly embarrassing. Take heed, everyone: what you can’t see can hurt you.

The Courtroom of the Future: The Bare Essentials for a Technologically Competent Courtroom
The future is now, and we need the technology for it. Courts have an obligation to encourage the use of basic kinds of modern technology because the resulting improvements in the quality and efficiency of trial presentations will improve the delivery of justice.


Remote Witness Testimony in Criminal Trials: Technologically Inevitable or Constitutionally Doomed?
The Confrontation Clause was not written on a computer in a room illuminated by electric lights. Yet it remains in operation today. Can its requirements be satisfied by the use of technology that did not exist when the framers put quill to paper?

Join the Green Movement
A typical lawyer uses 100,000 sheets of paper per year. Don’t be one. Judge Dixon shows how you can join the ranks of lawyers going green.

I Recognize Your Walk
Fingerprints, facial features, DNA—what’s next in the field of biometrics? Iris scanning, hand geometry, body odor, and . . . there’s something in the way you move.

Geeks In Paradise
Judge Dixon was in his element at the ABA Techshow 2008. You may have been too, even if you don’t know much about technology, since the experts were there to help you learn everything you’ve ever needed to know but were afraid to ask about technology for the legal profession.


Computer Tips and Tricks for the Over-40 Crowd
If you belong to the over-40 crowd, you may know much about the law but less about computers. Judge Dixon offers some useful pointers.

The [Lack of] Effort to Ensure Integrity and Trustworthiness of Online Legal Information and Documents
Judge Herbert Dixon cautions that as more and more courts and agencies institutionalize the use of electronic filing and the maintenance of records, the courts will need to address certain lurking issues to ensure the integrity and trustworthiness of legal documents.