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AZ Tech Beat | September 22, 2019

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No, your judge isn’t playing Soltaire, she’s using eBench

No, your judge isn’t playing Soltaire, she’s using eBench
Travis Arbon

Judges in Pima County are using large monitors during trials and hearings to process information and documents quickly. So don’t worry if that judge is tapping away at a screen, she’s not playing Angry Birds.

She’s using eBench, the new system meant to move the Pima County Superior Court toward a paperless future.

According to the Courthouse News Service, the interface consists of a large, touchscreen display that allows judges to read relevant documents, change their calendars and search laws on the spot. The goal is to reduce the use of paper in the courtroom.

Old tech in courtrooms today (Maricopa County Superior Court)

Only a few of the county’s judges are currently piloting eBench, but the county hopes to expand the program to every courtroom, the Courthouse News Service reports. But among the judges who have tried it, eBench seems to be a hit.

“My goal is, hopefully, [that] it’s seamless for those that are appearing in front of me … and that I appear smarter,” Judge Jeffrey Bergin told the Courthouse News Service. Bergin is the presiding judge of the family law bench in Pima County.

The biggest obstacle to the expansion of eBench is the cost. Each installation of eBench runs the county about $400, and that’s not counting auxiliary costs such as IT professionals, the Courthouse News Service says.

In fact, a full installation of eBench cost the Arizona Supreme Court $275,575, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Furthermore, eBench is currently confined to Pima County. The Maricopa County Superior Court uses a system called E-Courtroom, which provides displays to lawyers, judges and jurors. However the court still uses VHS tapes to show video evidence, according to its website. The Courthouse News Service reported that there were no plans to expand eBench to Maricopa in the near future.

Read: Smile for the camera! Police could livestream your next encounter

The courts aren’t the only arm of Arizona law enforcement to start to explore new technology. Police have increasingly adopted body cameras and video analysis, and Arizona tech companies are reaping the benefits.

Taser saw its stock price spike last month, Iveda Solutions is exploring new manufacturing partners to expand its live streaming video service, and police in Yuma are using 3D scanners to aid in evidence collection.

So while eBench itself may be a step toward revamping courtroom technology, the law enforcement system as whole is becoming increasingly connected and high-tech.