A growing list of courts using technology to remain operational during the current pandemic

 

A growing list of courts using technology to remain operational during the current pandemic

Colin Rule and the National Center of Technology and Dispute Resolution lists 56 courts in the USA, Canada, and across the world that have implemented these technologies.

Remote Courts Worldwide — Richard Suskind’s dynamic list of courts from around the world and what changes they have implemented to incorporate remote hearings from a technological standpoint, compiled by the Society for Computers and Law, funded by the UK LawTech Delivery Panel, and supported by Her Majesty’s Courts & Tribunals Service.

Paul Embley, Technology Services for the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, VA compiled a quick list of the technologies being used by the courts today. He states that while no one court is using them all, they are gaining traction. Paul advised that Texas just held its first virtual jury trial and several jurisdictions are doing virtual grand juries. Building on Paul’s list, we have:

Telepresence software

  • BlueJeans: Secure video conferencing, web and audio conferencing, and virtual meetings that are browser or device-agnostic and works with any room system.
  • Zoom: Video and audio meetings and conferences.
  • GoToMeeting: Video and audio meetings and conferences.
  • WebEx: Similar to GoToMeeting.
  • CourtCall: Remote court appearance platform.
  • caselines.com: evidence review in a virtual hearing.

E-filing

Courts all over have started accepting documents filed electronically, a few for some time now. For example, there is the Federal Court of Canada’s e-filing service.

AI Chatbots

Artificial Intelligence is being harnassed to aid people’s interaction with the justice sector. For example, in Artificial Intelligence, the “AI Justice Challenge” and the Future of Law, Salman Azam outlined five ways AI is being put to use in the BC justice sector, including chatbots.

Legal Portals

Portals are webpages that allow for the secure transfer of confidential information. For example, Legal Aid BC has established a legal portal for lawyers who represent legal aid clients where you can view and update information securely.

Text Notifications

These services provide notifications of changes in dates and such by text message. For example, the North Carolina Judicial Branch’s service states: “This service will provide notifications by text or email of changes to court dates on criminal and infraction cases.”

EXTRACTION/REDACTION TOOLS

These software tools allow for users to take electronic documents and either extract pages securely from them, redact (or render unreadable blocks of text within a document) or take documents such as emails and render them unchangeable. For example, here are a list of the top 10 free redaction tools.

REMOTE INTERPRETATION

Remote interpretation allows individuals to use devices, such as smartphones, tablets, or laptops to listen to translated content in real time with the interpreter working remotely. When the meeting is virtual, these services render simultaneous interpretation for those in the virtual meeting.

DIGITAL EVIDENCE COLLECTION via sharing tools/online storage (Box, OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox)

These services allow for the sharing or disclosure of documents among authorized users only using a secure web storage/sharing service. sync.com has been used in the courts in BC for this service.

E-SIGNATURES AND DIGITAL SIGNATURES

People often confuse e-signatures with digital signatures. A digital signature is a bit of computer code attached to a document that verifies from whom it is from and prevents it from being altered. For example, land title transfer documents in BC have a digital signature applied by a lawyer or notary prior to registration. The digital signature is based on a digital certificate being issued by Juricert, which validates the identity and professional credentials of the registrant and creates a digital identifier that can be used to validate online identity. An e-signature, however, is an image of a signature, usually created by a finger or stylus on a digital pad. Both of these technologies are being used by courts and lawyers to deal with documents and filings electronically.

Electronic Jury questionnaires to determine fit

These electronic forms replace the paper system of determining if a potential juror is qualified to serve. For example, in the United States District Court and Northern District of California, potential jurors must respond to their jury summons by logging into the appropriate web page and responding to their summons electronically.

ODR — Online Dispute Resolution

There are two general types of ODR. One type focuses on using the algorithmic power of computers to help people resolve their issues. This branch uses computing power to help parties reach an optimized solution that the parties can accept or it can help parties overcome obstacles and reach an agreement. For example, SmartSettle is an ODR provider here in BC that has developed software that assists parties negotiate (1-1 or multiple-to-multiple) solutions to problems.

The second type of ODR focuses on using computers to facilitate human communication. Instead of having the computer processor analyze data and make recommendations, this branch uses information and communications technologies to assist the interaction between the parties, helping them to reach mutually acceptable solutions. The computer is used to create a virtual meeting space, one specifically tailored to best meet the needs of the disputants. This second type of ODR is what BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal is modelled on and is Canada’s first online court.

They say that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. The COVID-19 virus may have caused untold damage and suffering on individuals, businesses, and governments worldwide, but it may have also been the incentive for positive change in the courts.