I sat in on the hearing of Kerr v. Danier Leather at the Supreme Court today and suprised myself by thoroughly enjoying it even though it had to do with securities law, something distant from my heart (and head). The quality of argument ranged from decent to very good; all of the justices had questions; and I learned once again that the sorts of things I taught my students to think important are in fact important at the top court, at least.

The law apart, three things having to do with IT came to my attention.

First, an intermittent noise somewhere between a beep and a honk would occasionally invade the sound system; the Chief Justice’s eyes met those of one of the court clerks, who went to investigate, returning a few minutes later to pass her a note; she then interrupted the proceedings to announce that the intrusion was evidently caused by someone’s active BlackBerry. Everyone looked at everyone else. No one reached into a pocket. The noise eventually disappeared.

Second, I was taken aback yet again by the sheer mass of paper involved in the practice of law. Boxes of bound volumes were trundled in, some of which were unpacked on to yards of tabletops, where the contents lay untroubled throughout the entire hearing, only to be interred in cardboard once again to be carted out for filing in quadruplicate, one presumes. The court clerks fussed at the bench for nearly half an hour before things got going, piling up at each of nine seats towers of facta, compendia, concisions and the like. More wood went down in the paper war of Kerr v. Danier that it took to build the room, it seemed.

We are very clearly nowhere near a paperless society. And I understand that it’s easier to read and to mark up text on paper, more reliable to store it… But still and all, some happy medium twixt print and pixels ought to be found to lighten the load, even make things more efficient.

Which brings me to my third thing noticed: Justice Charron was using a laptop, the only one of the nine to do so (at least so far as I could see). It would be interesting to discover whether she was able to follow the references to the facta in this way, or whether she had her own set of notes to be consulted during the argument. Progress, I think. One of nine is more than ten percent.


  1. Maybe she was blogging? 8-)

    One of my coworkers made the comment on Friday that she would be tree planting on the weekend to help off-set all of the trees she wasted last week doing printouts for our office. She was joking (I think) but I can’t help but agree this must be taking such a toll on our environment.

  2. Oops. As Binary Law pointed out, I misspelled Justice Charron’s name. I’ve now corrected it. Charon was something else: the the underworld ferryman in Greek mythology who took the dead across the river Acheron into Hades – provided they could pay. Which doesn’t sound like law at all. Does it?

  3. Acheron was the river of woe. Of course it does. As for any other overlap between the other rivers of the underworld and the legal domain

    we could have a nice contest here on that, right?

    We also have the rivers of lament, forgetfulness, fire and hate. Let me see, I’m lamenting the forgetfulness of my key witness. Now I’ll have to put out the fire with the client who’ll hate to hear that the result is not what we advised we thought it would be. Woe is me.

    Prize to be announced – there must be a used lyre or two around we could spare.


  4. I hope the Highest court could give the example to lower courts and perhaps, force lawyers to use less paper… Even if going paperless is impossible for the moment, I think we should all go less-paper. Btw, good presentation on the topic at the ABA Techshow. The funny thing is that it was the most well attended!

    In the mean time, please:
    1) print on both side of the paper;
    2) don’t print all you emails;
    3) don’t keep documents electronically and paper

    Félicitations au juge Charron!