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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

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This week’s highlights 

  • Law firms are investing in new tech, but lawyers are slow to make use of it—survey
  • Citing speedier courts, more access CA’s Judicial Council lobbies for permanent remote courts
  • NY begins publishing live eviction filing data, revealing gradual return of residential evictions
  • Organizations urge the U.S. Supreme Court to retain live audio stream post-COVID
  • A top state court rules comfort dogs can be used to assist witnesses testifying in court

Law firms are investing in new tech, but lawyers are slow to make use of it—survey 

“Baretz+Brunelle surveyed 44 of the 223 law firms in the Am Law 200 and the Global 100. More than 80% of firms that responded introduced at least six of 10 different major innovation initiatives specified in the survey, though some were more widely implemented than others.” (Reuters

Large law firms are investing in innovative new technologies, from automated document drafting to big data analysis, but adoption among lawyers is falling short, according to a new report. The finding was uncovered in a survey by Baretz+Brunelle, a legal industry consultancy.

“Just because the tools are there, though, doesn’t mean law firm professionals are using them,” writes Sara Merken in her analysis of the report for Reuters. Across all the tech initiatives evaluated, only 21 percent had been adopted pervasively, the report concluded.

Citing speedier courts, more access CA’s Judicial Council lobbies for permanent remote courts 

“Providing access to the courts through remote technology is about equity and fairness—people should not have to miss work or travel long distances for a routine proceeding. Courts can never require someone to appear remotely, but Californians should have this choice.” (California Chief Justice, Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye

California’s courts have been able to achieve record case clearance rates through the use of remote hearings. That’s according to data provided in a letter sent by the state’s Judicial Council urging the Governor to sign a new bill that would make the remote proceedings allowable until at least 2023.

In the first six months of 2021, more than half a million remote proceedings have taken place in California. The largest court in the state, Los Angeles Superior Court, is currently holding more than 5,000 remote proceedings daily, according to the Judicial Council’s letter.

NY begins publishing live eviction filing data, revealing gradual return of residential evictions 

“The Statewide Landlord Tenant Eviction Dashboard summarizes case-level filing data into dynamic tables and graphs. The dashboard contains information on landlord tenant eviction cases filed from January 2019 to present and is refreshed weekly.” (NYCourts.Gov

Newly published data from the New York State court system shows eviction filings dramatically declined during the pandemic but are gradually returning. The new data reveals more than 230,000 evictions in 2019 before the pandemic, 108,000 in 2020, and just 45,000 so far in 2021.

The data is publicly accessible on a live dashboard. The state will be updating the dashboard weekly, allowing for near real-time insight into the number of evictions. For instance, in August 2021, just over 7,000 evictions were filed, compared to almost 20,000 in the same month in 2019.

Organizations urge the U.S. Supreme Court to retain live audio stream post-COVID 

“Ensuring that live audio of oral arguments remains accessible to the public and requiring media pool participants to caption that audio in real time with live transcription and American Sign Language interpretation would promote transparency and increase public confidence in the nation’s highest court.” (Project on Government Oversight

A letter signed by 76 news organizations and accessibility groups is urging the United States Supreme Court to retain live audio access to oral arguments after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, signed by all the major news networks plus nonprofits like the Pulitzer Center and Transparency International, argues that “live audio access to cases during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has convincingly demonstrated the public’s appetite to observe the operations of the Court.”

The high court should follow the example of the ninth and D.C. circuits, the letter concludes, and make the audio stream permanent.

A top state court rules comfort dogs can be used to assist witnesses testifying in court 

“’We hold that a trial court should balance the degree to which the accommodation will assist the witness in testifying in a truthful manner against any possible prejudice to the defendant’s right to a fair trial,’ the Pennsylvania Supreme court said in an opinion published Thursday.” (ABA Journal

Trial courts may allow comfort dogs for witnesses in criminal trials in appropriate circumstances, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday. The ruling came as part of an appeal against a 2018 murder conviction, with the state’s high court finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing a comfort dog during the testimony of a minor with autism.

The comfort dog, Melody, was a Labrador-golden retriever mix that had training for accompanying witnesses in court.

Author

  • Richard Heinrich

    Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.