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University of Virginia law clinic uses JusticeText to prepare students for tech-enabled public defense

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Posted March 6, 2023

JusticeText is excited to announce a new partnership with the University of Virginia (UVA) Criminal Defense Clinic to bring AI-powered video analysis to the next generation of lawyers. The students will be leveraging JusticeText to streamline the review of body-worn camera footage, interrogation videos, and other digital discovery in their casework.

Shaping the future of law

At the clinic, law students spend a semester representing clients in three misdemeanor cases, handling everything from initial case analysis and client meetings, to plea negotiations and trial. Public defender Lacey Parker, a director at the clinic, believes it is critical that third-year students with a variety of backgrounds and interests get this experience. For students who may choose to become prosecutors after school, for example, working in criminal defense creates opportunities to build a view from the other side, before they begin practicing.

Lacey’s commitment to building empathy among students with varying interests stems in part from her own journey. When Lacey was in law school, she got exposure to a variety of practice areas before ultimately becoming a public defender, a role she’s had ever since.

She shared, "I’ve found my calling. People are going through the worst experience of their life. To the degree that I can either help them navigate that or protect them from that entirely, I find that very exciting and rewarding."

Digital evidence is the new status quo

The legal landscape is shifting. A few years ago, both University of Virginia officers and Charlottesville city officers implemented body-worn cameras to increase transparency and accountability within the department. And in the past year, the police department of Albemarle County, which surrounds Charlottesville, followed suit rolling out body-worn cameras to officers.

“It's just completely changed practice. There's many hours of bodycam footage and we have an ethical obligation to review that to make we're prepared for trial and looked for any exculpatory information."

While digital evidence provides huge potential for shedding light on the truth of an interaction and increasing accountability, it can only do so if an attorney, or law student for that matter, has the time to actually review it.

Automating digital evidence review

To help manage the increase in digital audiovisual evidence created by body cameras, Lacey and her students turn to JusticeText. Students upload body camera video to the JusticeText platform which automatically creates a searchable, editable transcript for all of the evidence in a case.

"It’s much more efficient. It’s often really tedious to watch an entire video, but having the transcript come up allows you to get to the meaty part of an interaction quickly"

Students have found this particularly helpful for preparing impeachment of testimony for cross examination, creating timestamped clips in the platform and playing them in the courtroom.

Letting the next generation lead the way

Less time focused on tedious discovery frees up students to focus on their core work: holistic, client-centered representation. Lacey credits today’s law students with helping shift practice in the field to a more human-centered approach, as they advocate for the people most affected to be at the center of their representation.

Ultimately, Lacey knows her students will be the driving force of justice reform in the years ahead in a city that’s made significant strides in recent years. Most recently, Charlottesville has implemented a variety of alternatives to incarceration, including a mental health docket and recovery-focused drug treatment programs.

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“It's remarkable to me to think back on the way we were incarcerating people 17 years ago vs how we're choosing to use our resources now. We can be a voice for change, and we can help to make those changes in our communities."

Parker lacey

Lacey Parker

University of Virginia Law Criminal Defense Clinic Director

Is JusticeText Right For You?

If you are an attorney looking to make sense of high volumes of audiovisual discovery, there are many ways in which you can utilize JusticeText to streamline your pre-trial preparation process. Reach out today to learn about how you can get started with JusticeText.