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For immediate release: May 1, 2006
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig
609-292-9580

N.J. Supreme Court First to Offer Open Captioning of
Live Oral Arguments on the Web

Tomorrow morning, the New Jersey Supreme Court will become the first court in the nation to make live Webcasts of its oral arguments accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers via "open captioning," according to Stephen W. Townsend, clerk of the New Jersey Supreme Court. Open captioning allows viewers to read a text version of what is happening on the screen.

"Videostreaming of oral arguments before our Supreme Court has been available at njcourtsonline.com since January 2005, but the arguments were not fully accessible to those with hearing impairments until now," said Mr. Townsend.

Open captioning helps not only viewers who have hearing impairments, but also those with visual challenges. The viewer can enlarge the text, make it a different color, and make other changes to the text that will enhance readability for those who need it.

Judge Philip S. Carchman, acting administrative director of the courts, emphasized the ongoing efforts of the Judiciary to make court proceedings widely accessible. "We have an obligation to the public to conduct our courts as openly as possible. That includes making sure that everyone has the tools necessary to observe justice in action," he said.

Jeffrey Newman, deputy clerk of the Appellate Division, explained the process of open captioning: "A real-time court reporter uses a stenography machine to capture everything that is said in the argument. That information is transmitted to our computer system and forwarded to the Web site to accompany the video of the argument nearly instantaneously."

Supreme Court Webcasts are available on the Judiciary Web site for 30 days, after which they may be accessed via the Rutgers Law School-Newark Web site. All future Supreme Court Webcasts will have open captioning both in real time and on the archive.

The first appeal in which open captioning will be available is at 9:30 a.m. on Tues., May 2. The name of the case is Abbott v. Burke (Application to modify or retain State's funding obligations in respect of Abbott districts). The full list of the day's arguments can be found at njcourtsonline.com.

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