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VaLawyer_June/July 2013

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ET AL. < Noteworthy William & Mary's Hi-Tech Courtroom Widens Its Aim to Include Legislative Hearings by Gordon Hickey Here's the situation. You're a Canadian lawyer interested in climate change and cleaning up our environment, so you get invited to a meeting of like-minded environmental activists. You learn there that they plan to take a ship into international waters off the west coast and dump a large quantity of iron filings into the ocean in an experiment intended to increase plankton growth and remove harmful carbon dioxide from the air. In January, 2013, the environmental group — the Pacifica Marine Life Preservation Foundation — does just what they said they would do. They sail out of Vancouver, British Columbia, and begin dumping the solution of iron filings and sulfuric acid, an activity known as iron fertilization. But a U.S. Coast Guard cutter has gotten word of the experiment and stops the dumping, though not before about 2/3 of the solution, or about 250 metric tons, is poured into the ocean. This didn't really happen — but it could. Iron fertilization is real, and in 2012 a group really did dump 200,000 pounds of iron sulfate into the ocean in an effort to reverse climate change. The fake dumping by Pacifica Marine Life Preservation Foundation was invented as part of the latest exercise in international communication by the Center for Legal and Court Technology at the College of William & Mary Law School. The center was started in 1995 with the goal of exploring how technology can be used to help resolve legal disputes. The dumping scenario wasn't exactly a legal dispute, but it was an international incident requiring discussions involving representatives from the United States and Canada. That's where the center fits in. Fredric I. Lederer, chancellor professor of law at William & Mary and director of U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Kristen Byers was among the witnesses during the mock hearing at the Center for Legal and Court Technology at the College of William & Mary Law School. Acting as commissioners were Rebecca Green, professor of the practice of law; Michael J. Connolly, director of Federal Relations; and Melissa Conner, adjunct professor of law. the center, said the center usually invents scenarios that would lead to trials and treats them as if they are real. It then uses the technology available at William & Mary's McGlothlin Courtroom to help the student lawyers resolve the case. In this instance, the technology involved linking Canada and the U.S. for a live hearing on March 22 involving members of the fictional "Bilateral Commission on Oceanic Geoengineering." The hearing included three commission members at the University of Montreal's Cyberjustice Laboratory in Canada and three in Williamsburg. Testimony was taken in each location and from the lawyer in Vancouver. The goal of the inquest was to provide recommendations to the prime minister of Canada and the president of the United States. The center has conducted many trials over the years, Lederer said, but "this is the first time we ever took a shot at legislation." The trials are conducted to showcase how technology can be used to more efficiently, transparently, and quickly solve the problem. In this case, the problem was, "how can Canada, the United States, and the state governments work better through the use of technology," Lederer said. "Our dilemma is, we don't know what the Congress or Canadian Parliament have done in any given hearing. … They have never combined the technologies we used." In addition to the links between the United States and Canada, the documents presented during the hearing were on a server in Australia. The technology allowed any commissioner in the U.S. or Canada to view the documents — Hi-Tech continued on page 48 Vol. 62 | June/July 2013 | VIRGINIA LAWYER 47

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