Technology and Its Effect on Access to Justice, Advocacy, and the Judiciary

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On the 22nd of October 2002 the evidentiary phase of GasTOPS v. MxI commenced in a regular courtroom in Ottawa Ontario. On March 23, 2006 after approximately 300 days of hearing and after approximately 2800 exhibits (70,000 pages) were entered into the record I reserved my decision. Over the next 20 months counsel submitted their written submissions (3500 pages). On September 25, 2009 I released my Reasons for judgment wherein I granted the plaintiff judgment against the defendants in the amount of approximately $11.1 million dollars.

The trial was conducted in a paperless environment and the trial record consists of electronic exhibits saved on an external hard drive lodged with the Registrar. During 2003 I authored a paper entitled “Using Summation iBlaze in the Courtroom – Better Lawyer, Better Judge, Better Justice – The Need for Judicial Leadership”[PDF]. The paper reflected my impressions part way through the trial of using electronic exhibits and creating an electronic record.

At the end of the trial and judgment my initial impressions of the value of electronic technology in the litigation process were confirmed in my mind. Over the next few months I propose to write a few entries dealing with the use of electronic technology in the litigation process and with Simon’s permission have them appear on Slaw, with the hope that such posts will spark a full discussion between the judiciary, the legal profession, academics and law students on the value and use of electronic technology in the judicial system. Such discussions will help me as a member of the judiciary and other judges consider if electronic technology can increase access to justice by reducing legal fees.

I am sure that Simon would be grateful to receive comments and other material from the judiciary and legal profession and any other interested persons on this subject which would greatly add to the discussion and assist in the determination of whether electronic technology can be a benefit to the judicial system.

I intend to write entries on:

  • Access to Justice and electronic technology
  • Advocacy and electronic technology
  • Justice and electronic technology
  • Establishing an electronic courtroom without going bankrupt
  • Why most counsel and the majority of the judiciary resist the use of electronic technology to the exclusion of paper
  • Persuading the trial judge to judge in an electronic environment

I personally believe that the use of electronic technology will reduce legal fees and result in better lawyers, better judges and better justice.

Justice B.T. Granger

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Comments

  1. Welcome, Justice Granger! I hope that your posts will provoke the level of discussion that you’re anticipating – you raise important issues.

    It would also be interesting to look at how expectations are changing as the tools of justice become less paper-based. Is Ontario going to have to come up with a centralized registry, or a PACER-like system so that we can find filings more easily? I would argue that continuing with the existing, segmented approach just doesn’t make sense.

  2. Your Honor:

    Judge Dory Reiling, Vice President of the Amsterdam District Court, http://j.mp/4yzmBI , has just published her dissertation on this topic, entitled Technology for Justice: How Information Technology Can Support Judicial Reform (2009), abstract: http://j.mp/4zIDoU , and writes a blog about this topic, http://doryreiling.blogspot.com/ , which may be of interest.

  3. It was one of the ambitions of Ontario’s late lamented Integrated Justice Project (obiit 2002) to have a complete electronic ‘back office’ to which e-filings could be made. It was the failure of the supplier to provide that back office that led to the revocation of the regulations that authorized e-filing. It was not worth filing documents electronically that just had to be printed for use in the court.

    Some progress has been made in the meantime, sometimes formally and sometimes informally (as with Justice Granger’s Ottawa case and elsewhere). It is tempting to try to ‘integrate’ again – though perhaps not in the same way as last time!

  4. Justice B.T.Granger

    As a follow up to the comment of Robert Richards I have written to Judge Reiling requesting that she send along a copy of her thesis. Perhaps when her thesis has been accepted she will allow us to post it on Slaw.
    Justice B. T. Granger

  5. I welcome the posts by our guest bloggers from the judiciary. It is interesting to hear their perspective on technology.

    One plea here to the Superior Court judiciary (and I don’t mean to single out or put pressure on Mr. Justice Granger – I am merely taking advantage of his post to “comment” on the following request):

    The law librarians of Ontario would be ecstatic if the Superior Court would issue a practice direction welcoming (or merely allowing) the use of online forms of judgments for books of authorities where the online version is reliable, has paragraph numbering, etc. (see my earlier SLAW blog post here from January 2008 on this topic). If online versions are good enough for the Supreme Court of Canada and the Ontario Divisional Court, one would think they should be acceptable to the Ontario Superior Court (and Provincial Court, for that matter).

    While I understand that some lawyers (and likely some judges) may prefer the more professional format of a judgment from a published, print case law reporter, using reliable online versions is often much easier (and the formatting of online judgments is improving). Most firms have some litigators who continue to say “the judges require a print version” (or words to that effect). A practice direction allowing online versions would help deal with those types of comments.

  6. Actually Justice Granger, the book appears to be published by Leiden UP.

    Dory Reiling
    Technology for Justice
    How Information Technology can support Judicial Reform

    Technology for Justice examines impacts of information technology (IT) on the administration of justice. Court users all over the world complain mainly about long delays, lack of access to justice and court corruption. Drawing on a broad variety of sources – comparative studies, statistics, case law and jurisprudence, studies on IT use and on court usage – this study examines how IT can help to remedy these complaints. The study, contributing to knowledge about information use and IT in proceedings, analyzes how automated case registration systems have revolutionized thinking about case management and significantly reduced court disposition times. It also explores Internet technology’s potential for increasing access to legal information, predicted by Richard Susskind in 1996, as a means for selfhelp with settlement and support for court access. Providing the first systematic analysis of court corruption, it analyzes IT’s contribution to reducing corruption. It closes by providing insights into the Internet’s new challenges for judiciaries.

    Dory Reiling, judge at the Amsterdam first instance court, was formerly the IT policy officer for the Dutch judiciary and a senior World Bank judicial reform expert. Her previous publications include Doing Justice with IT (2006) and Justice Sector Assessments Handbook (2007).

    Judge Reiling

  7. Justice B.T.Granger

    Following up on Ted Tjaden I recently saw a claim for fees by a lawyer for photocopying law reports at 25 cents a page (three copies of each page) and the cost of the legal clerk in photocopying and binding the authorities. It is difficult to justify this type of expense to the client when the reported case can be downloaded and copied onto a CD and filed with the judge. I much prefer to recieve electronic copies of cases or an electronic citation in order that I can copy and paste into my reasons or provide the electronic passage to my assistant so she does not spend time copy typing. Also this procedure avoids typing errors. If Ted could send me along an outline of what he is hoping for I would be more than happy to send it along to the Council of Regional Senior Judges of the Superior Court of Justice for their consideration.
    My thanks to Simon Chester for his information on Judge Reiling’s book.

  8. The full text of Dory Reiling’s PhD dissertation and book, Technology for Justice: How Information Technology Can Support Judicial Reform, is now available here.

  9. Thanks Peg – now we won’t have to travel to Amsterdam.

    Two comments caught my attention.

    Apparently we have a corrupt judicial system!

    At p. 62

    Two projects
    This section examines two justice IT projects: the HBS project in the
    Netherlands and the Ontario Integrated Justice Project in Canada. Both
    projects were stopped before completion. These projects are relevant
    for four factors they have in common:
    – They attracted a lot of attention.
    – They illustrate a variety of learning points.
    – They were audited by a third party, so there is an authoritative
    source for what happened. The audit reports are an important source of information for this section:
    The audits, by the Ontario Auditor’s office, of the Ontario Integrated
    Justice Project. These audits were conducted in 2001 and 2003 (Ontario 2001, 2003).
    – They are no longer active projects, so their outcomes are known.
    There are many very interesting judicial IT projects in progress right now. Any of them would have been interesting for this study.
    However, they are difficult to judge because they are still in midcourse and their outcomes are not yet clear.

    During my time at the World Bank, I was told time and again that the only way to ensure a favorable judicial decision is to bribe the judge. This impression is difficult to test, because corruption is extremely difficult to verify empirically. In 33 of the 62
    countries polled for TI’s Global Corruption Barometer, a majority of respondents describe their judiciary/legal system as corrupt. This group includes all countries in Africa and Latin America except South Africa and Colombia. In the United States, the percentage of respondents describing their judiciary/legal system as corrupt is about 55, and it is 33 percent in Canada. In Asia, the percentage for India is well over 70, and for Pakistan it is around 55. However, for Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Thailand the percentages are lower than 25. Eight of the ten countries with the lowest percentages are in Western Europe.