September 9, 2021 | John Neal
Bailiffs have historically played the role of enforcement officers primarily responsible for maintaining order and security within courtroom settings. Tasked with assisting the judge and ensuring orderly conduct—bailiffs typically hold a number of responsibilities related to general trial proceedings. They traditionally act as peacekeepers who interact with courtroom personnel, judges, lawyers, and other professionals involved in the litigation process.
Bailiffs also assist with courthouse technology by performing a number of duties including: sending presentations to projection systems, adjusting lights and audio volume, or connecting telephones and video conferencing systems.
However, with the sudden emergence of COVID-19, the bailiff’s job role was altered. With many courtroom proceedings being held virtually or spread out amongst different rooms—bailiffs were suddenly focused on managing conference calls and cameras in every hearing.
Challenges Faced by Bailiffs
Instead of focusing on maintaining courthouse order and security—bailiffs suddenly had to manage audiovisual needs. This included manually switching between various camera and audio settings, which caused workplace frustrations.
Sutter Court enlisted Spinitar to help them achieve a number of audiovisual goals within the courthouse including:
- Creating automated audio and video feeds of courtroom proceedings before sending them to attendees joining via video conferencing
- Allowing alternate jurors in the assembly room to view proceedings from their assigned trials
- Feeding high-definition audio and video signals to the press pedestal in parking lots
- Streaming live video that court executives and IT staff members could view
Although the bailiff traditionally held minor technical administrative duties, too much of their focus had shifted away from standard security and safety duties. Spinitar worked closely with courthouse members to implement new technologies suited towards simplifying bailiff duties.
Problems with Existing Technologies
Existing courtroom viewings within Sutter Court consisted of systems that sent images from one of three courtroom cameras to the jury assembly room, and cameras were only installed in four of the six courtrooms. As a result, bailiffs were forced to manually switch between each party in the court, thereby causing excessive distractions.
Chaos can be presented at any moment within a courthouse. Bailiffs must be ready to react and respond. With bailiffs unable to maintain a constant focus on litigation processions—members of the court were placed at an increasingly high safety risk.
What Solutions did Spinitar Implement?
Spinitar implemented a new automated video capture technology that reacts to a given set of five conditions that bailiffs set from a touch panel at the start of each hearing. The conditional decisions include items such as:
- Is there a witness present?
- Is the lectern being used?
- Will video conferencing be used?
- Do you want the presentation to use full screen or a reduced size with camera views?
Spinitar utilized advanced control system programming to create and modify automated multi-window video layouts of cameras and graphics based on audio cues and presentation selections. As a result, bailiffs no longer were forced to deal with excessive manual inputs.
Client representatives, bailiffs, and presiding judges worked closely with Spinitar representatives to develop solutions best suited towards maximizing courthouse efficiencies. The various technologies implemented include:
- Camera Selection Technology: Bailiffs no longer had to manually choose which camera should transmit video. Instead, automated systems utilize camera presets and microphone cues to capture all speaking courtroom participants in a single multi-window layout.
- System Overview Status: Color-coded icons across the bottom of the touch controller now allow the bailiff to see complete overviews of active room functions including presentation, telephone, video conferencing, and outbound streaming.
- Master Mute Page: This allows for easy control of incoming and outgoing audio and video.
- Visual courtroom layout: This provides a visual representation of each court’s laptop inputs to simplify identification and selection of attorney laptop connections for presentation.
Using multi-window processors created with a combination of buttons and microphone cues—Bailiffs were able to focus their attention on maintaining safety and orderly conduct within the courthouse. As a result, the situational awareness of bailiffs improved as they were able to better manage courtroom safety concerns.
Using Audiovisual Automation to Improve Courtroom Safety
The outset of COVID-19 drastically changed the way traditional courtroom proceedings were held. Increased usage of video conferencing technology left bailiffs overwhelmed with non-traditional job duties and frustrations.
Spinitar listened to the needs of Sutter Court to develop solutions geared towards streamlining bailiff job duties. Using multi-window processors, camera presets, and programming based on conditions and microphones cues—bailiffs are now able to focus on maintaining courtroom order, helping to minimize disruptions and safety concerns.