Is It Really Not Easy Being Green?

Green can be cool and friendlylike

Is It Really Not Easy Being Green?

♫ I’m green and it’ll do fine
It’s beautiful, and I think it’s
what I want to be

— Music and lyrics by J. Raposo,
recorded by Kermit the Frog.

I had occasion to go to the Vancouver Law Courts just the other day. On entering, I glanced over to my right. Up against a wall in the reception area was a sign that said, “Free Binders!” standing up against a stack of empty, black, three ring binders. My heart sank. Here we are, almost 20 years since B.C. led the world with the high-tech Air India trial in Courtroom 20 in Vancouver, we are still conducting trials and hearings with binders of paper documents. I asked myself, “Why is this still occurring? Haven’t the benefits of paperless trials been amply demonstrated? Why are we here in B.C. so slow to the mark?”

Writing in Lawyer Monthly in 2019, David Jackson, SVP for Business Development for CaseLines, made the case for paperless hearings and how digital transformation in the courts can benefit both lawyers and clients.

In 2016, His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service introduced plans to transform the UK’s justice system through paperless working. The digital vision has been delivered across the criminal justice system in what Justice Minister Lucy Fraser recognized as a huge success: “The Digital Case System is a great example of the benefit technology is bringing to our courts and tribunals. Not only has it saved a staggering amount of paper, but it is making a real difference to legal professionals up and down the country every single day.”

The Ministry of Attorney General and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice have also introduced CaseLines. It enables filed court material to be accessible by the Judiciary electronically prior to a scheduled hearing. CaseLines is a secure, cloud-based e-hearing platform that allows litigators to upload, store, review, search, mark-up, share, and present court documents virtually.

CaseLines allows judges, parties, court staff, and self-represented users to securely access the system from any location, on any device with a full audit trail of all user actions. It can grant time restricted, file restricted, and redacted case access, with user specific views, for juries or witnesses.

Ontario is now using CaseLines province-wide. There are courses and other information hosted by the courts and resources from the Law Society of Ontario on how to use CaseLines and others. They are now years ahead of B.C.

Of course, we have our own paperless BC Civil Resolution Tribunal. However, the paperless revolution in our courts stops there.

There is much to be done. We need to drag trials out of the 16th century and start to take advantage of the benefits that information technology can bring to the courts. Following in the tracks of the UK and Ontario, we need leadership to champion greening our court systems. We will need Continuing Legal Education courses for lawyers and others on overcoming reluctance and how to use any new system. Law schools have a role here in teaching students about paperless and other technologies that can bring about efficiency and effectiveness changes. But mostly the change must start with each of us in recognizing that the time for change is here and no longer taking the status quo for granted. As Kermit says, “while it’s not easy being green, I think it is what we want to be.”

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