The US Bankruptcy Court (FLMB), located in the Middle District of Florida, is part of the US Federal Judiciary system. It has four locations across the state: active courts in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa, and an administrative site in Fort Myers. The buildings themselves vary in age, with the oldest in Tampa dating from the 1950s or so. Because the bankruptcy court does not use court reporters, all hearings are recorded.
In 2017, FLMB kicked off a major initiative to update and upgrade the AV systems in all bankruptcy courtrooms across Florida. It already had a Kramer-based system in place for teleconferencing, video conferencing, presenting evidence and exhibits, and recording hearings. However, the system was mostly analog, and much of the equipment was old, dating back seven years or more. FLMB wanted to upgrade its AV systems to support higher-resolution video, improve the scaling and quality to better support BYOD, and enable easy operation by court deputies, who operate the AV system during hearings.
FLMB also wanted to minimize maintenance and troubleshooting, as the two-person AV team based in Orlando is responsible for all three court locations across the state.
The AV project consisted of updating 10 courtrooms in total, four in Orlando, and three in Tampa and Jacksonville respectively.
Once COVID-19 hit, the court needed to quickly adapt to remote hearings and operations.
Noel Rodriguez, the AV Specialist at FLMB, had enjoyed excellent experiences with Kramer equipment since 2001, including in his previous job in the District Court of Puerto Rico, so Kramer was his first choice for the new project at FLMB. According to Noel, Kramer checks all the boxes: quality, durability, reliability, and customer service. His view: “Kramer service has always been amazing. The math is simple; why buy something that might be reliable, but when it breaks down, you don’t have the customer service for it.”
Once Noel had specified the equipment requirements, a public tender was issued, and a supplier was chosen.
For all three locations, the same design and equipment were procured in a copy-paste manner, for simplicity’s sake. Each courtroom has three cameras – one each for the judge and witness, one at the lawyer’s lectern – and the Tampa courtrooms each have an additional lectern camera. At each courthouse, the installation included pairs of TP−580T high−performance, long−reach HDBaseT transmitters, and TP−580R receivers, PT−571 twisted pair transmitters for HDMI signals with PT-572+ receivers, a VS-88H2 Matrix switcher, VP−424C digital scaler, a VM−4HN distribution amplifier for 4K UHD HDMI signals, and an FC-46XL HDMI audio de-embedder.
Noel and his small team handled the AV system design and all installations. The AV system runs through the IT DC network, secured with IP protocols and passwords.
Jacksonville was the first project, completed in 2018, as its system was the oldest and was reliant on analog technologies. In 2019, the team moved on to Tampa, using the same AV design. The final phase of the project was the Orlando location, whose final courtroom was completed in July 2022.
The installation of the new AV equipment went smoothly, according to the systematic plan.
The Kramer equipment improved resolution on display screens, maximizing images from the upgraded 4K courtroom cameras. It gave users the ability to switch input sources, which had previously been lacking. According to Noel, users can now “select source inputs, what audio they want, and anything that they need to present, and all at a higher quality.” It also met aesthetic demands, with most equipment hidden under tables and behind walls.
Importantly, the AV solution supports bring your own device (BYOD) trends, allowing lawyers to easily present exhibits and evidence from their laptops.
The system has proven easy to learn, with the courtroom deputies able to operate it after a short hands-on training, regardless of their prior technical knowledge.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Noel was able to get remote court hearings up and running within a matter of weeks. Now that in-person court is back, the four Orlando courtrooms are still set up to operate remotely if needed. As Noel explains, the need for remote court operations is here to stay, with things like extreme weather and natural disasters to overcome. “We have created courtrooms that can be used by the judges as if they are there in-person, to service remote proceedings for people across the entire state.”
Having used a copy-paste template for each courtroom’s AV design, Noel has found maintenance is now a breeze. “With everything the same, it’s really easy to troubleshoot. And if anything goes wrong at one location, we can either pre-empt or prepare for the same issue at others, with the solution already in-hand.”
Noel has been impressed by Kramer’s customer service on multiple occasions. “When I was working on the Jacksonville install, we had an EDID issue,” he continues. “As soon as we called Kramer, we got a great walkthrough with a customer service technician, and the problem got fixed. More recently, during the testing stage a new switcher wasn’t receiving the input signal. After trying to troubleshoot it, I called Kramer, and they immediately sent a new unit.”
As far as recommendations go, he only has praise. “I’ve been relying on Kramer for more than 20 years for the quality, endurance, reliability, and customer service, which is amazing” Noel concludes. “It’s got all that, and it’s easy to program. I’d certainly advise any AV person that you can’t go wrong with Kramer.”