For Whom the Bells (and Whistles) Toll Are IEPSs for You

For Whom the Bells (and Whistles) Toll Are IEPSs for You

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Integrated Evidence Presentation Systems (IEPSs)1 have been around for a number of years, but their use has been largely the province of mid- to large-sized firms with complex litigation practices. However, this is increasingly no longer the case, and whether you are a solo practitioner or a practitioner in a large firm, IEPSs are worth a (second) look for a number of important reasons.

At their core, IEPSs are software packages that allow the user to electronically organize and present evidence in a variety of media. However, development of the software over the past 10 years has resulted in products with increased versatility and substantial capability. Features now common to this type of software include image annotation tools, barcode support, side-by-side exhibit comparison, multiple zoom capability, text/video synchronization and enhanced integration with numerous other applications such as PowerPoint, Windows Explorer, dBase, Microsoft Access and Excel.2 A widely touted feature is the ability to link to a specified time in a video and include a scrolling transcript alongside the video. Transcript search capabilities are useful in lengthy proceedings, and the software allows the user to redact portions of an imaged document and highlight other significant portions. The software also allows the user to move documents from a network to a stand-alone computer for use in court. In addition, most of the software available provides the user with a system for marking exhibits throughout a trial and allows a user to prepare evidence for pre-treatment by a judge. Exhibits that have been annotated during a trial may be marked and saved as separate exhibits. Useful time-management tools also permit the user to track the length of each evidence segment and estimate the time needed for evidence presentation.

Some of these software features may seem like overkill for the practitioner involved mostly in plain vanilla evidentiary hearings or bench trials, but there are other reasons to at least begin familiarizing yourself with the software. As discussed in the Clerk Commentary column in last month's issue, a number of federal courts, including several bankruptcy courts, have courtroom technology renovation projects underway. Some of these courts are including access to IEPS software as a part of the project. Among those courts already using the technology, the reviews from judges and practitioners alike have been favorable. The most significant benefit of using electronic presentation of exhibits has been consistently shortened trial time. This is a benefit that courts are unlikely to overlook. With electronic case filing becoming mandatory in courts across the nation, it isn't difficult to imagine courts also developing a strong preference for electronic presentation of exhibits.

The most significant benefit has been that electronic presentation of exhibits has consistently shortened trial time.

Typically IEPS software is available by purchasing a machine license with costs ranging from $395-$599 per license. Some vendors make their software available for free, but charge an annual support cost that is typically in the $300 range. All of the software vendors offer training for their software at various rates, which seem to range from $75 an hour to $995 per day. A recent article in the July 2002 issue of Trial magazine sets out the hardware and software requirements necessary to make full use of IEPS software. According to the article, the list includes the following:3

Minimum specifications for a laptop to use in the courtroom

    Screen: 15 inches will allow others to watch over your shoulder
  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz)
  • Hard drive: 30 gigabyte (GB)
  • RAM: 512 megabytes (MB)
  • Network adapter
  • Modem
  • Floppy disk drive
  • CD drive
  • A 6-GB external hard drive with USB2 or firewire connections

Minimum requirements for a scanner

  • Auto document feeder: speed of four pages per minute
  • Resolution: 600 dots per inch (dpi), particularly for photographs
  • Ports: a USB port to let you connect to other computer equipment

Recommended specifications for a projector

  • Screen: 4' x 4', minimum
  • Resolution: XGA or higher
  • Brightness: 100 lumens or higher
  • Inputs: 2 RGBs, 1 S-video
  • Fan noise: 39 decibels or quieter

Recommended specifications for screen monitors

  • Screen: 21-inch, minimum
  • Resolution: XGA or higher
  • Brightness: 1,000 lumens or higher
  • Inputs: 2 RGBs, 1 S-video
  • Fan noise: 39 decibels or quieter
  • Video mute button on the remote—a must if the courtroom has no kill switch

Minimum technical and operating requirements for IEPS programs

  • Operating system: Windows 95, 98, NT 4.X, 2000, ME or XP
  • Processor: Intel Pentium III or IV, 733 MHz or higher
  • RAM: 256 MB
  • CD-ROM: 32x
  • Available hard-drive space: 6 GB or more; 20 GB for extensive video use
  • Display resolution: 1024 x 768
  • Display color depth: 32-bit color
  • Sound card for audio/video playback

Minimum specifications for a digital camera

  • Resolution: 1 million effective pixels
  • Zoom: 37 mm-111 mm (3x) zoom lens
  • Storage: compact flash card or memory stick

While that list can seem downright ponderous to many, remember that, as mentioned above, some courts are beginning to provide all of the necessary hardware and software in their courtrooms at their own expense. In these courts, the frugal practitioner could conceivably prepare the electronic evidence presentation in his or her office on a single laptop or PC loaded with the software and show up in court with his or her disk ready to use the court-provided hardware and software.

Obviously a certain amount of training on this hardware and software is required for it to be useful. Generally, the courts that have budgeted for the software and hardware to be installed in their courtrooms have also budgeted a certain amount for training in the use of the system. As mentioned above, the various vendors also provide a variety of training options, which can include intensive, on-site "boot camp" training or self-guided training via CD or online "training centers." The good news for many is that the leading software packages all tend to use features that consumers are already familiar with. For example, most software packages use the "drag and drop" function, right-click menus and tree lists for viewing an outline of your presentation.

Beyond the obvious drawbacks associated with the expense and training required to use IEPS software, practitioners have also tended to raise issues about the prejudicial effect of electronic evidence presentation as well as the "digital divide" it supposedly creates between larger and smaller law firms. Several journal articles have already been written that discuss these specific issues much more thoroughly than can be done in this column. However, it is worth noting that the price of the software and hardware has dropped significantly since many of these articles were written, and recent articles have begun to argue that a solo practitioner who embraces the IEPS software actually has a new tool to help level the playing field.4 These articles also argue that where knowledge of the IEPS software capability and the legal strategy are embodied in one person, the presentation can be much more effective than, for example, a presentation by an attorney with a limited understanding of IEPS who is supported at trial by a separate automated litigation specialist.

Ultimately, IEPS software still may not be for you, but it is just one component of the courtroom technology that is increasingly available to practitioners. At the very least, it is worth finding out what technology developments are planned in your courts. These developments may help you reshape your practice and set a few technology-oriented goals of your own.


1 These systems have also been referred to as Digital Evidence Presentation Systems (DEPS) and Multi-media Presentation Systems (MMPS). Return to article

2 IEPS software and vendors include but are not limited to: TrialPro software by Innovative Design & Engineering Associates Inc. (, Sanction software by Verdict Systems LLC (, TrialDirector Suite software by inData Software LLC ( and Visionary software by Visionary Legal Technologies ( Return to article

3 Panish, Brian J., and Spagnoli, Christine D., "Take Technology to Trial," 2002 TRIAL 39. Return to article

4 See, e.g., Heintz, Michael E., Note, "The Digital Divide and Courtroom Technology: Can David Keep Up With Goliath?," 54 FED. COMM. L.J. 567 (2002). Return to article

Journal Date: 
Sunday, September 1, 2002