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April 26, 2021

What Is the Biggest Change You've Seen in the Courtroom, and What Changes Do You Anticipate in the Future?

June 1, 2011

Technological Advances

Technological advances have greatly impacted the presentation of cases in court. Virtually no case is tried where the jury does not see exhibits on a computer screen, and few oral arguments are unaccompanied by PowerPoint slides. If a lawyer does not present evidence visually, she risks losing visual learners, and that is virtually the entire Generation X. On the other hand, overuse of technology can be a distraction and can divert jurors from overall case themes.

I expect that over time, technological advances will further impact court proceedings. Testimony from remote locations may be permitted. More cases will likely be televised, and, in that context, we need to do all we can to minimize posturing for the camera by witnesses and lawyers while protecting witness and juror confidentiality. Journalists covering trials will likely be blogging more detail than traditional news coverage has allowed. This enhanced attention to court proceedings can skew assessments of our justice system, depending upon the quality of the lawyering, judging, and reporting. Increased coverage makes it harder to find an untainted jury in a high-profile case, and safeguards are required to discourage jurors from inappropriate use of technology that may expose them to excluded evidence, or the public to secret deliberations.

Hon. Barbara M.G. Lynn is a judge with the United States District Court in Dallas, Texas. She is former chair of the ABA Section of Litigation, honorary cochair of the Judicial Intern Opportunity Program, and former chair of the Judicial Division.

More Pro Se Representation

Although I am a relatively new judge, the biggest change that I have observed in the courtroom is the increase in pro se representation, which I would attribute to the economic crisis and rising unemployment rates. The mortgage crisis has also resulted in more homeowners challenging foreclosure actions by their lenders on a pro se basis. While it is typical for business litigation to increase during stressful economic times, the recent trend that I am observing is that more and more people are choosing to represent themselves. Legal service organizations increasingly are overwhelmed and declining representation of otherwise qualified individuals due to organizational financial constraints. The costs of legal services have increased overwhelmingly during economic booms in the late 90s, and, as a result, have isolated average Americans who are faced with legal disputes. The increase in pro se representation reminds jurists that the courts should be accessible to all individuals. As a judge, it is sobering to be reminded that access to justice must remain fair, equitable, and open. It is an honor daily to serve and interact with pro se and represented litigants and uphold the concept of equal justice under the law.


Hon. Tiffany M. Williams is a New Jersey Administrative Law Judge in Trenton, New Jersey. She also serves as cochair of the Section of Litigation�s Pro Bono & Public Interest Committee.

June 1, 2011