Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Specifying an Audio-visual System for a Court

The NZ Ministry of Justice has issued a Request for Proposal for " Provision of Audio and Audio-visual Systems for Stage 1 of the Auckland District Court Redevelopment Project". The tender documents provide an excellent detailed specification of the requirements for digital audio and video systems for a court and similar functions, such as a parliament.
General Information

(“the Ministry”) requires provision of equipment, ongoing support and maintenance of Audio and Audio-visual Systems for Stage 1 of the Auckland District Court Redevelopment Project (“the Deliverables”). The Ministry seeks proposals from persons with the capability and expertise to provide the required Deliverables.

Respondents may submit proposals for the following components of the tender package:

- Audio only
- Audio-visual only
- Audio and Audio-visual...

Additional Documentation to Download
5.3.2EACourtroomVCRequirementsStandardV1.2.pdf Courtroom VC Requirements Standard V1.2PDF2.09mb
AgreementforAKLDDCRFPaudioandAVequipment-29.9.08.pdf Agreement for AKLDDCRFP audio and AV equipmentPDF123.29kb
courtroomsoundsystemrequirementsstandard3v1G(.pdf courtroom sound system requirements standard 3v1GPDF912.8kb
MoJCablingStandardv1.2.pdf MoJ Cabling Standard v1.2PDF50.23kb
RFPADCAudioandAV v0.2.doc RFPADC Audio and AV v0.2WORD259kb
Technical Specification - Akld DC RFP final.pdf Technical SpecificationPDF193.01kb

Relates to the following TenderWatch Categories
752 Telecommunications services
754 Telecommunications related services
473 Radio broadcast and television receivers; apparatus for sound and video recording and reproducing; microphones loudspeakers, amplifiers
472 Television and radio transmitters and apparatus for line telephony or telegraphy; parts and accessories thereof
516 Installation work
515 Special construction & trade related work

From: Provision of Audio and Audio-visual Systems for Stage 1 of the Auckland District Court Redevelopment Project, Request for Proposal, NZ Ministry of Justice, 2008

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Australian electronic court system

eCourtThe Federal Court of Australia has introduced an electronic court system eCourt. An interesting aspect of this is that the system is available to litigants (that is people going to court), as well as their lawyers, the judges and their staff. Documents and case details are limited to the relevant parties.

The court has taken a relatively pragmatic and low-tech approach to the e-Court. As an example, e-documents must be "sent" via the Court's home page. Essentially the documents are just uploaded as files to the court web system. There is no provision for emailing documents. eDocuments must be capable of being printed: that is the court doesn't want exotic electronic only formats, just equivalents of paper formats. Those lodging are asked to keep paper copies of the documents (thus assuming paper copies are possible).

Document are not accepted automatically, but have to be checked by a person and are only checked during office hours (thouse after 4:30 pm are considered received the following business day).

Electronic forms supplied can't be filled in using the online system. They have to be downloaded and edited locally using additional software. Forms are provided in PDF and RTF and are not intelligent (needing to be filled in manually or by a program emulating a human operator). Documents can use RTF, PDF, TIF, GIF, JPEG and "any version" of Microsoft Word. Zipped (compressed) files are permitted. It appears that the contents of the documents are not automatically tagged for incorporation into legal workflow systems and must be manually processed when received.

Digital signatures are not used for the documents. Instead a digital image facsimile of the persons autograph is used as a signature. This technique obviously is of little value to authenticate a document. It must be assumed that the user ids and passwords used for the web lodgment system and the encryption used to protect the upload is sufficient. The Court uses SSL encryption (key length?). Apart from this no form of cryptography or other techniques appear to be used to check the integrity of documents against accidental damage or deliberate tampering with documents.

Affidavits are only accepted electronically as "... an image of the document in an appropriate format". This is presumably done on the assumption that it is harder to forge an image of a whole page, than a word processing document which has the image of an autograph pasted into it. While it is more difficult to fake a whole page, it is within the competencies of the average computer literate teenager.

What is incorrectly described as a " file size" has not been set for e-documents at 100 printed pages equivalent.

The Court Registry provides the person submitting the document with a "stamped" copy of the document by email in PDF format. It is not clear what security measures are applied to the emailed document and why the same web interface is not used for returning documents (given the Court does not accept them by email).

Also the Federal Court of Australia is revising its "Practice Note No. 17. Guidelines for the use of information technology in litigation in any civil matter".

By mid 2008, the following were available:

  1. eSearch: public to search of cases.
  2. eFiling: litigants and legal representatives can lodge Court documents , including applications, electronically. The web based system includes an online guide and credit card payment facilities.
  3. eCourtroom: virtual courtroom for pre-trial matters, such as directions and orders by a Judge, with parties and legal representatives participating online.
  4. eCase Administration: for legal practitioners and parties to communicate with court chamber staff securely.
  5. Commonwealth Courts Portal: Web-based services for judges, lawyers, litigants and court staff of the Federal, Family and Magistrates courts. This provides information on current cases before the courts, cases for particular judges, lawyers or litigants, documents filed and orders made.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Computers for Lawyers

Over Christmas lunch I was asked how to send documents to people in court. My first reaction was to point out that some courts now accept electronic documents. As an example the Federal Court of Australia has an eCourt Strategy, with an Electronic Filing System to lodge e-documents and even a eCourtroom (some courts are considering legal changes to make e-work cheaper). But this has not yet filtered down to local magistrates courts. For these those in the court, inlcuding professionals assisting in the case, may need to supply their own computers, be able to print document for presenting to the court and communicate with their offices.

In large city locations this is less of a problem with major legal firms, who have their offices located near the court and have staff with wheeled handcarts to carry documents back and forth. But in other locations, getting documents to the court is a problem.

The obvious solution is a laptop computer, a small printer and a wireless Internet connection. However, the typical laptop computer bought as a desktop replacement is heavy and cumbersome. A sub-notebook computer may be a better option. A smartphone might even be used, if documents are only occasionally needed. This can be connected to a printer by USB or Bluetooth.

An alternative could be the ASUS Eee PC, but the wireless device needed would have to be checked for compatibility. Many wireless ISPs and mobile data providers only offer Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac compatibility. The devices they provide will usually work with Linux, simply by not installing the software provided and using the networking features in Linux. But you need to know which option to use and where to enter the supplied userid and password.

Usually documents will be sent to the court by email. But this assumes there is someone back in the office to send the document and they are reading their mail or answering their phone. An alternative would be to be able to log onto the corporate system and retrieve the document from the court. In any case the network connection used must be secure enough for the documents accessed.

Portable printers present a problem. These usually cost more than desktop units, have small fiddly batteries, low capacity expensive cartridges and jam prone paper paths. One way around this is to use a thermal printer (as used for old fashioned fax machines). These need no printer cartridge and provide their own roll of paper. Modern fax paper is relatively stable (but the court might still want to photocopy it for stability). An example of such a printer is the Pentax PocketJet 3. This has Bluetooth, allowing access from a smartphone, or USB. There is a battery option.

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