Realtime Reporting Shines in Nortel Networks Bankruptcy Hearings

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It’s hard to believe that three months have now passed and the evidence completed in the Nortel Networks bankruptcy hearings– both the cross-border and the Canadian claims – has come to an end. In this technology-laden trial – a first for almost everyone involved – the verdict is in and ready for dissection.

The Videoconferencing

For the joint Delaware/Toronto trial, before Judge Gross and Justice Frank Newbould respectively, videoconferencing was set up in both courtrooms and monitored full-time by audio-visual technicians at each site.

When the witness was testifying in Toronto, for example, the Toronto video screens would show only Judge Gross. When the witness was testifying in Delaware, however, Judge Gross, the questioning attorney and the witness would all be visible on one screen in three divided sections.   All questioning counsel attended the venue in which the witness was called, so it was interesting for us Canadians to watch US counsel operate in our venue. All Canadian counsel, of course, were gowned at the counsel table; US counsel appeared in their usual business attire.

Exhibits and demonstrative evidence was also preloaded and exhibited as needed on a separate screen that would appear simultaneously in both Toronto and Delaware.

All counsel tables, the reporter, the registrar, the witness and the judge had viewing monitors for videoconferencing and exhibit viewing.

Of interest was the fact that the podium also had an embedded screen for exhibit viewing, and an extremely large screen was in front of the podium for videoconferencing. In Toronto, Courtroom 8-1 was transformed so that extra counsel tables could be added, and only a few could sit in the public galley; Courtroom 8-2 was transformed into the public viewing galley, where an extremely large screen was set up at the front of the court room, in front of the registrar/reporter’s desk – it was like walking into a movie house except there was no popcorn and drinks!

Despite a few glitches, the videoconferencing worked very well. There were a few times where the audio was problematic, and few times where the feed was lost altogether. But very little time, ultimately, was lost due to technical difficulties in the courtroom. One witness did appear by videoconference in London, England, and that feed certainly proved very challenging for not only the court reporters, but for counsel as well, because the connection between London and Toronto/Delaware was not of the same bandwidth and quality. Luckily that situation did not arise often.

From the court reporting perspective, ultimately our biggest challenge was the audio feed. While we were supplied with headphones that were directly connected into the A/V board, there were times that the audio was:

  • Non-existent (in which case we had to rely on the courtroom audio which was not optimal at all, and often slightly distorted due to the output from the speakers)
  • Too low or too high in volume (because the A/V was not set up to regulate individual microphones, sometimes the questions would blast through because counsel was standing close to the mic, but be so very quiet for the answers because the mic was not close enough to the witness)
  • Garbled (sometimes there seemed to be feedback that could not be quickly identified and eliminated)
  • Extraneous noise highlighted – I remember several times Judge Gross’ chair hitting the desk and making a weird squeaking noise that took forever for all of us to figure out what it was so an adjustment could be made!

The Realtime Streaming of Text

LiveDeposition’s text streaming software was the choice of all participants for sending text in realtime to multiple parties. Secure chat groups were set up in advance of the hearing so that each group could speak privately to one another about the testimony as it was occurring.

Local (on-site) realtime reporting and text streaming was set up in both Toronto and Delaware. Counsel would be advised each morning which stream to join – you could only use one or the other – and of course one needed to be on the same stream if the chat feature was going to be used.

Because of the large numbers of participants expected to view the stream, each reporting team had a separate internet line brought into the courtroom for the exclusive use of realtime streaming. At times we had over 75 people on both the local and remote stream, and it was imperative that a large amount of bandwidth be available for this use only.

The internet streaming in Toronto was uninterrupted about 90% of the time, save for a glitch in the internet connection that was finally corrected by Bell. However, Delaware was not given an exclusive internet connection and as a result did experience more failure in the streaming over the course of the trial. Luckily, though, because we had two streams running every day, if one failed, counsel could simply pop on to the other stream.

All told, the LiveDeposition delivery of realtime streaming worked extremely well, providing hundreds of connections over the course of the three months of trial.

In sum, given the fact this was the first time all of this technology met in two courtrooms, the verdict from this reporter’s perspective is SUCCESS. We’ve come a long way from the days of using carbon paper to make copies of transcripts!

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