Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Commissioners respond to concerns about civil liberties re: "Court TV"

At Wednesday's meeting of the County Commissioners, NewsLanc expressed concern regarding reports that the County court system wants to have the ability to conduct certain legal proceedings remotely by teleconference.

Reporter Matt Henderson asked whether the addition of such technology might introduce a slippery slope in a political and legal environment where Due Process rights of the accused have been increasingly under fire.

"Would you feel more comfortable pleading your case in the physical presence of a judge, where you appear as a full size, palpable human being, or would you be comfortable being perceived as an inanimate image on a television screen?" he asked, quoting from NewsLanc's previous editorial on the matter.

The Commissioners responded only that the courts will have to exercise the discretion to use the technology appropriately.

Commissioner Scott Martin said that the project is not uncommon in other areas of the country, and that "this project has been working hand-in-hand with public defenders and their associations and attorney's associations across the state."

He said the technology is being considered as a remedy for "things like the cost it takes to bring someone back from a facility that's halfway across the state for a five-minute hearing and what the cost is to the taxpayers."

He said that the use of the technology is at an experimental stage at this point.

"Crime costs taxpayers a lot of money," Martin concluded.

Craig Lehman, the lone Democratic Commissioner, said, "We can't dehumanize people through the use of technology, but I think we have to be reasonable in that the use of technology does have benefits."

NewsLanc understands the benefits of technology, but cautions, as Samuel Johnson is reported to have once said: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."