Judges are “deaf” to many things. One of those things is modernity in general and computers in particular. In the District of Nebraska, we are fortunate to have a teacher who has a lot experience teaching the “deaf” to learn. Her name is Luta and she is pictured above. Her job is to teach judges, court staff and lawyers how to use the computer systems–from CM/EFC, to digital audio, to word processing programs, to hyperlinks and so forth–with ease and maximum efficiency. Luta is truly a superstar who has been recognized nationally for her unique teaching skills.
Luta has been with our court for 15 years. Prior to that she taught high school mathematics at the Kansas School for the Deaf. (Yes, she is fluent in American Sign Language). She holds a bachelors degrees in Mathematics and Deaf Education from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD. In 2008, she returned to school and obtained a Masters in Organizational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary.
Her work responsibilities with the court are twofold; providing technical support, and providing end-user training. The support portion of her job includes providing day-to-day technical support for court users in Probation, Pretrial and the District Court on a variety of software and hardware issues. She researches and tests new programs that the court may be interested in procuring. She is the primary point of contact (aka local expert) for the court’s digital recording system. She is also one of the primary points of contact for the mobile devices, smart phones, and tablets that the court deploys to some users. One of the favorite aspects of her job is finding ways to help court users do their jobs more efficiently. Sometimes this is through training, but it can also involve developing automated forms and macros. Justifiably, she prides herself on not only knowing how to fix the technical problems, but also understanding how the various members of the court staff use the technology to get their jobs done and finding ways to make that easier for them.
Her training duties include, new employee computer orientation, developing annual computer security classes, and developing a variety of other technical training for court staff as needed. To try and keep court staff up-to-date with rapidly changing technology, she develops and delivers a monthly “lunch bytes” training class for court users that is a 30-minute update on new technology developments. Her training duties also reach outside the court to attorneys and their staffs She delivers training on the court’s electronic case filing system (CM/ECF), and on courtroom technology and evidence presentation systems.
In her time with the court, we have transitioned from delivering all face-to-face training to mostly online training. All of the court’s CM/ECF training is now delivered via interactive, on-demand, training videos. In a state as spread out as Nebraska, the online training approach lets us reach many more attorneys without the cost of travel. This past winter she held “hyperlinking” training for attorneys via live online webinar. Not only did the webinar format allow Luta to reach western Nebraska bar members, but out-of-state attorneys as well. Of the more than 200 attorneys attending the live sessions, almost half were participating from outside of Nebraska.
Importantly, she she has also been involved in many projects of national significance. She was front and center in the national pilot program to implement the inclusion of digital audio recordings in the electronic case file. For judges who elect to use digital audio rather than court reporters (like me), this means that everyone of my court proceedings are captured in digital audio and made available that day to anyone in the world at minimal cost. It is the ultimate technology for rendering federal judicial proceedings transparent. I am convinced that without Luta digital audio would never have been implemented nationally. That is an achievement of singular importance.
In 2007, she spearheaded the development of the Automation Trainers Community of Practice. This is an online site that allows court trainers from across the country to share resources and training materials. In 2008, she worked with a Magistrate Judge from Utah (now District Judge David Nuffer) to develop the Chambers Online Automation Training program. The program was developed to provide training to law clerks and chambers staff on the various automation programs used by the court. It now consists of over 80 training modules on topics such as “preparing an order for electronic case filing”, “annotating PDF documents”, and “using two monitors effectively”. With many law clerks serving 2 year terms, this resource helps bring new clerks up to speed quickly, on the technology specific to the court, without requiring a lot of court resources and duplication of efforts across the country.
More recently, Luta co-facilitated a 12-hour online training course for court technology staff across the country. The class focused on using Visual Basic programming to create automated forms in Microsoft Word. The class was taught live and hands-on to more than 80 participants without anyone setting foot out of their office or spending a dime on travel! Even her co-facilitators were in Arizona and Minnesota.
I hope you get the picture. Behind the scenes, Luta is responsible for teaching us how to maximize our resources in this age of digits and automation. Without her, we would have remained “deaf” to the technology that is revolutionizing how the federal courts do their business.
Let me say it again, Luta is a superstar!