Alumni Spotlight

John Cleaves '92

John Cleaves
Photo courtesy of Robert Levins for the Daily Journal

John Cleaves is changing the landscape of litigation by developing trial applications that allow lawyers to trade their yellow pads for iPads. Putting his Law Center degree to a “nontraditional” use, Cleaves is drawing on nearly 20 years of experience in litigation support to ride the new wave of technology right into the courtroom.

In December, Cleaves developed JuryTracker, an iPad application that helps lawyers track each juror during a trial. JuryTracker helps trial teams observe and report juror behavior in a consistent, clear, and concise manner. “It has the potential to greatly improve a trial team’s understanding of what the jury comprehends and believes,” says Cleaves. “The app is designed to quickly and simply allow users to enter information so they can continue observing the jury.”

Cleaves’ JuryTracker application debuted in Apple's App Store in January. Approximately seven months out, the app has consistently been ranked in the Top 200 Business App sales each week.

The application enables trial teams to speak the same language about what goes on in court.  JuryTracker provides a uniform language for taking notes, a uniform system for determining the mindset of individual jurors, time-stamped notes that can be matched to the court reporter’s transcript, and tools to keep jury consultants apprised on a daily basis.

In addition, it uses emoticons to evaluate each juror's emotional reactions to what's going on in the courtroom including witness testimony, attorney presentations, and judge pronouncements. A second set of graphics track whether a juror is taking notes, paying attention, making eye contact, fidgeting, or checking his or her watch. The application is equipped with TrialTimer, a stopwatch which may be used to keep track of how long each party is presenting.

The creative process behind the application was simple: Cleaves saw a need and filled it. “When I was working in trial support, I noticed the attorneys would observe juror behavior and reactions to the testimony and evidence,” Cleaves said. “Back in the war room, the attorneys would make decisions on how to proceed based on those jurors reactions. However, there was no uniform way to make the initial observations.”

Cleaves began thinking about developing an application to the fill the void. He sketched out the idea for JuryTracker and shared it with a few colleagues and consultants who gave positive feedback. When the iPad came out, he found the “perfect medium” for his brain-child. But, that is not the end of Cleaves’ application endeavors. Aside from planning to revamp JuryTracker by adding additional features, he is in the beginning stages of developing trial presentation software. Cleaves foresees marrying the two applications. In this union, JuryTracker will become an extra function for the envisioned trial presentation software.

After graduating from the Law Center in 1992, Cleaves spent seven years as an attorney in Houston representing clients in jury and bench trials. His areas of practice ranged from criminal defense to employment law. Eventually, he moved to California to do trial support. He has assisted attorneys by designing demonstrative graphics, trial presentation software, and with story development and jury observation. “I fell in love with the world of trial support and graphics,” Cleaves said.

                In addition to being the creator of JuryTracker, Cleaves is the supervisor of trial technology consulting at Latham & Watkins, based in its Los Angeles office. He is also a member of Law Technology News' editorial advisory board.