If you weren't at CTC 2017

Court Technology Conference 2017 didn’t disappoint.
If you couldn’t be there, here are five pieces below of information from selected conference events. 

You can also watch the sessions you missed!

 Keynote: Cybersecurity expert Mark Lanterman

  1. “When it comes to phishing, hackers need our help. They need to trick us into doing something. The best advice I can give you is to slow down. Look at the email address from the sender. Does it look right? Start there.”
  2. Don’t use debit cards. “If I steal your credit card, I steal your bank’s money. If I steal your debit card, I steal your money.”
  3. The dark web was started by the U.S. military to conceal what it was doing. Today, it’s also used to buy and sell everything from guns and drugs to passports and people.
  4. The dark web isn’t all bad. It also allows people who live in repressive countries to get the word out about human rights abuses where they live. Amazon’s site can also be found there.
  5. “The topic that keeps me up at night is the ‘Internet of Things,’ which is the concept of connecting devices with on-and-off switches to the Internet. “It seems that everything is connected to the Internet – our lights, our thermostats, our cars, our TVs – and many of them shouldn’t be. Hackers can wreak havoc on all of this.”

Midnote: Police camera expert Seth Stoughton

  1. “A hammer is a tool that’s good for pounding nails, but you wouldn’t want to use it for driving screws or cleaning your windshield. A body-worn camera is a tool. We need to find out what it’s good for and what it’s not good for.”
  2. The three potential benefits of body-worn cameras are showing the community that the police are trying to be transparent, changing police and civilian behavior for the better, and providing more and better information to resolve court cases faster.
  3. Studies show that body-worn cameras don’t always reduce the use of force, but they almost always result in a decrease of complaints about the police.
  4. Video from body-worn cameras is sometimes not helpful because these cameras have narrow fields of vision, video can be interpreted differently, and moving cameras exaggerate movement and can distort reality.
  5. Questions to consider: Should we use these cameras? Which ones? When should they be used? Who gets to see the video? How long should video be kept?

Rikers: An American Jail

  1. Jonathan Lippman, former chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, and Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Common Pleas Court Judge Ronald Adrine spoke about criminal justice reform with a focus on Rikers Island, which Judge Lippman called, “a symbol of everything wrong with the criminal justice system, not only in New York but across the country.”
  2. “Rikers Island, by any standards, is a hell hole,” Lippman added. “It is an inhumane, violent place. …Whether you’re there three days, three weeks, three months or three years, you come out worse than when you went in. …You go in as normal citizens and come out as hardened criminals, even if you’re there two or three days.”
  3. Judge Lippman co-chaired a commission on Rikers that called for reforming criminal justice in New York, moving people out of Rikers Island and into smaller jails and then closing Rikers Island and re-using the land.
  4. As bad as Rikers is, it represents many jails nationwide, “filled with people who haven’t been convicted of anything,” Judge Adrine said. Money bail contributes to this problem, he said, because many people can’t afford to pay it and they end up in jail awaiting hearings.
  5. Judge Adrine said modern-day jail over-population started in the 1980s, with the advent of the “war on crime” and the “war on drugs,” which led to high bail and sentencing guidelines. Judge Lippman added, “We don’t want to be tough on crime. We don’t want to be soft on crime. We want to be smart on crime.”   


  1. This session detailed a pilot program to use text messages and email to notify people about court appearances in Hennepin County (Minneapolis).
  2. The texts are an additional reminder, not a legal (paper) notification.
  3. Failure to appear rates for felony cases in Hennepin County are so high (28 percent) that court officials there overbook their felony dockets by 30 percent.
  4. Anecdotal evidence shows that defendants, lawyers and court workers like e-reminders.
  5. Hennepin has experienced a 12.5-percent reduction in failure to appear rates during the first two months of the pilot program.

Know Your Users

  1. At this session, Illinois court officials reported on their efforts to gather and analyze data to get a better understanding of who is using the courts so that it can better serve them and increase efficiency.
  2. The data is helping Illinois see patterns, relationships and demographic changes, some of which surprised court officials.
  3. In Illinois, the highest percentage of children are in the Chicago suburbs, the highest percentage of elderly are in rural areas, and residents with the greatest language needs live in the cities.
  4. In most of the state, only 25 percent to 75 percent of households have Internet access, residents in rural areas are less likely to have access to legal aid offices, and two-thirds of defendants in civil cases go to court without a lawyer.
  5. Having this information has caused court officials to rethink how they are operating the courts and may result in simplifying court processes and using more remote access, among other things.

Exponential Government: The Future of Public Service

  1. Paul Taylor, chief content officer, for e-republic, Governing and Government Technology magazines, spoke about how technology may impact government and the courts.
  2. Technology has allowed us to perform tasks at blazing speeds. In one minute, 156 million emails can be sent, 452,000 messages can be tweeted, and 342,000 apps can be downloaded.
  3. Voice recognition technology may replace keyboards. What impact might that have on court reporters as this technology becomes more accurate?
  4. Virtual reality may allow witnesses to appear in holographic form.
  5. Other technological innovations, such as artificial intelligence, drones, robotics and self-driving cars, are bound to impact the courts, possibly increasing efficiency.

The Art & Science of Data Design

  1. Kim Nieves, director of research and statistics for the Administrative Courts, detailed the three concepts of data design: numeracy, visual processing theory and information design.
  2. Numeracy is the mathematical equivalency of literacy. It’s being number literate. Literacy is measured in America but not numeracy, but the best guess is that six of 10 adults are innumerate, so it’s important to present data in a way they can understand.
  3. Visual processing theory is presenting data visually. People remember five times more data when it is designed well.
  4. Information design is using font, format and color to make data look and read better.
  5. Five PowerPoint tips: Communicate one message per slide. Don’t read the slide. Use few words and lots of images. Use large font that’s easy to read. Make sure the color of the background and the color of the type contrasts.

Courts Disrupted: Toward a User-Centered Court Future

  1. David Slayton, Texas’ State Court Administrator, and Bryant Baehr, Oregon’s chief information officer, said courts aren’t used to competition and might think they don’t have to worry about digital disruption.
  2. But courts should consider the “disruptive innovation” concept because it may lead to enhancing users’ experience, reducing costs, making justice available to more people.
  3. The changes necessary to anticipate and address potential disruptors are affected by court culture, tradition, mindset and technology.
  4. What does it take to change court culture? Nurture a “can do” mindset. Embrace innovation. Allow for failure. Listen to all staff members. Challenge assumptions.
  5. What technology changes should be taken? Digitize, digitize, digitize. Enhance data gathering and analysis tools. Design for increasingly tech-savvy users. Outsource.

Endnote: Perspectives on CTC

  1. David Slayton, Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Hanson, Texas’ CIO Casey Kennedy, and Contra Costa (Calif.) Superior Court CIO Heather Pettit spoke about the conference highlights, including cybersecurity, innovation and cultural changes.
  2. Slayton: “My big fear is that hackers will alter records, not just steal records. If they can steal, they can alter. So if there’s a breach, will I even know about it?”
  3. As part of cultural change, courts must think of the users and stop using legalese. “We have to do this,” Slayton said. “We have to use plain language.”
  4. Hanson: “Innovation is the #1 area where judicial leadership is most important. Judges often receive a finished product. We have to let the IT people be prepared to fail, and then move on.”
  5. Embrace technological innovations even though we don’t know how they will impact courts.