One of the largest videoconferencing networks in the country used by a court system


TRENTON, N. J. - The New Jersey Judiciary now has one of the largest videoconferencing networks for court systems in the country. With 29 remote sites -- or endpoints -- located throughout the state, the state’s courts can use videoconferencing to facilitate numerous court activities such as testimony and arraignments. The new technology promises to increase the efficiency of court proceedings with less time and money spent on traveling and transportation.

The network, which is provided by Lucent Technologies’ new Enterprise Networks Group, is in place in every courthouse in the state, as well as in the Supreme Court, most Appellate Division chambers, and the New Jersey Law Center, headquarters of the state bar association. The hub of the network is located in the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) in Trenton.

"The videoconferencing network virtually gives people the means to be in two places at one time," said James Rebo, chief information officer for the Judiciary. "We expect that we can offer the people of this state and their lawyers a faster, easier way to do some things that will save them money."

The Judiciary plans significant use of videoconferencing for:

  • Appearances by attorneys for motions and appellate arguments
  • Testimony by expert witnesses or translation services provided by those out of the county or the state
  • Arraignment of prisoners without transporting them to the courts
  • Judges’ or supervisors’ conferences ad hoc committee meetings
  • Education and training programs

A few courts around the state already had been using videoconferencing to do many of these procedures, but the new conferencing system marks the Judiciary’s first opportunity to use the technology statewide. The result is that the courts will be able to offer additional services in all locations.

While acknowledging that videoconferencing technology is not suitable for every court proceeding, administrators expect a myriad of benefits from the ability of court users to participate in various proceedings by simply going to the conferencing site closest to them. Scheduling court proceedings will be easier and will take less time overall for participants. Lawyers and expert witnesses may not need to travel to court houses as often, which can reduce fees charged to parties. Eliminating the need to transport prisoners for arraignment saves money and increases public safety. Reducing the need to travel around the country’s most-densely populated state also will result in lower transportation costs.

The Lucent MultiPoint Conferencing Unit (MCU) at the AOC allows up to 25 locations to fully participate in a conference via both video and audio. The flexibility built into the equipment facilitates the wide range of procedures to which the Judiciary will put the new technology. The MCU allows the AOC to hold large meetings involving multiple locations, but each of the 28 remote sites also can connect directly to one another and to other videoconferencing sites, whether on the state network or elsewhere.

Using a touch-tone phone in conjunction with the Bell Labs-designed MCU, the AOC has complete control over managing a multi-site videoconference. The unit can be set up so that the camera will be voice-activated and show the current speaker in any of the multiple locations participating in the conference; it can also focus solely on the moderator, who can see a person posing a question. Finally, it can lock in the moderator on one-quarter of the screen while allowing three other views that "free float" in response to voice-activated switching. Views can be customized from standard to panoramic focus in any of the three modes. The MCU can also adjust to allow remote sites transmitting at different speeds to participate in a single videoconference.

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