Digital Text for Judges, The Revolution is Upon Us

There are abundantly more lawyers using tablets or viewing digital documents from their desktops. In time, as more states move to electronic records, more judges will use tablets or other mobile devices to view pleadings.

Judge Doom | Flickr via Me2
Judge Doom | Flickr via Me2

I’m very encouraged by the surge of mobile users, especially Android fanatics. I also recently discussed three of the best PDF reader apps in the Android arsenal.

Judges want digital documents

The fact that we’re existing in a society very focused on digital media shouldn’t surprise any good attorney. The argument that judges want digital documents is equally strong.

Lawyerist’s Sam Glover, authored this post advocating the use of links in documents. Many of the subsequent comments emphasized the same. In fact, one of the commenters added that she “[added digital media] a few years ago on a very complicated Daubert motion, and submitted the courtesy copy to the judge on a DVD with the transcripts, cases and exhibits all linked. It was very much appreciated by the judge — and the client.”

I tried something similar with a resume I was testing, just to get a flavor for aesthetic appeal. My thought was that even the smallest enhancements can set documents apart, so I tested hyperlinks to papers I’ve written, this blog, and even my accolades from the ABA Journal and Biztech Magazine. And then I explored the possibility of filing court documents.

Nebraska’s federal court actually has a decent video (runtime 1:22:00) about hyperlinking federal documents, or even this instruction manual from Oklahoma State’s graduate program.

But what about tactile comprehension?

But one of the problems we’re not discussing is how comprehension suffers from digital texts. Specifically, this article points out how some researchers “fear that mobile devices, especially digital tablets as they are now being used in the classroom, are not supporting the kinds of extended, rich interactions with text.” The researchers also discovered that:

When reading on screens, for example, people seem to reflexively skim the surface of texts in search of specific information, rather than dive in deeply in order to draw inferences, construct complex arguments, or make connections to their own experiences. Research has also found that students, when reading digitally, tend to discard familiar print-based strategies for boosting comprehension.

And many of the multimedia elements, animations, and interactive features found in e-books appear to function primarily as amusing distractions.

Of course, we’re talking about judges who are more engaged in the matters than students.

The article does point out that “the extent to which the benefits of digital features such as hyperlinked text or embedded videos outweigh the disruptions to reading flow appears to depend greatly on the degree to which such materials genuinely complement the core text, are presented in intuitive ways that readers can easily follow, and mesh with individual readers’ preferences and styles.”

In essence, lawyers must learn how to create engaging written content and enhance the written word with meaningful multimedia content.

Digital develops greater meaning

I definitely think we’ll see many more digital briefs that will try to enhance how judges perceive the finite points of our casts. I also believe that some of the more complex issues will naturally require enchanting hyperlinks and embedded media. The distance between that time and the present is anyone’s guess.

Are judges interested in digital briefs? Let me know in the comments below.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.