Every day, Canadian courts and tribunals help resolve thousands of cases under the rule of law in a civilized, fair, impartial and independent manner. Technology has held, for decades, the promise of increased effectiveness and better efficiency. Ah… The plain enjoyment of one's day at work when the right information is at your fingertips! If the technology objectives are simple and the outcomes easy to imagine, then why is it so difficult to rejuvenate courts and tribunals with better technology?
We strive for justice on demand that is simple from a litigant’s point of view. For example, simple cases with minor implications from a social point of view should be accelerated by allowing remote appearances of all participants. The formality of physical paper should be dispensed with. Online resources for self-represented litigants should be sufficient to guide a litigant effectively through the administrative aspects of any proceedings. The list goes on!
We aim to promote the development of technology sophisticated courts that are a pleasure to work in for judges, judicial officers, court administrators, lawyers and other participants in court proceedings. Technology used at work should keep pace with social and technological trends, including the use of mobile devices and online connectivity. And yet court technology does not keep pace, for Canadian courts and tribunals, with a few exceptions.
This Fall in Montreal took place Forum 2012, the most important court technology conference in Canada, currently held every second year. During that week, I conducted several interviews with private sector executives. They all voiced the same frustration: it is very difficult to approach courts and tribunals, and even more so than approach governments. They often see "a black wall", rooted in the independence of the Judiciary, effectively blocking them for making a pitch for their goods and services. Ah well… nothing new you might say… But hold on. Did you know that the frustration, although of a different nature, is equally shared on the other side of that wall?
Judges and court administrators experience the pleasure of sound and fun technology at home. An increasing number of them even bring their iPads at work (for example) after a learning period at home playing and experimenting with these devices. Quickly enough, they find themselves wanting to put them to work. Judicial work. And then they find themselves in a court in which Paper is King, E-Filing is an elusive mirage and court proceedings hopelessly appear to be antagonized against any technology evolution. These judges and court administrators want to leverage better technology. However, evolving technology in several courts and technology is a formidable task, as it requires the simultaneous consideration of many facets: legacy systems and technology, migration challenges, legislative and regulatory barriers, government procurement rules, technology obsolescence cycle… Not to mention, understanding fundamental technology trends, their manifestations and how to exploit them in a sustainable manner in a court context. How can these challenges be met without input from the implementation experts…. from the private sector?
Bridging the chasm defined: enable the public sector to convey a meaningful picture of its technology readiness, challenges and priorities, on one hand; and empower the private sector to meaningfully convey its services and products to courts and tribunals, on the other hand.
How can this chasm be ethically bridged, with due consideration and respect for the independence of the Judiciary and of courts and tribunals?
We at the Canadian Centre for Court Technology – Centre canadien de technologie judiciaire (CCCT-CCTJ) believe this can be achieved through the delivery of six programs:
- Court Technology Knowledge Base
- Court Technology Events (Biennial conference, regional worshops, etc.)
- Court Technology Learning Series
- Court Technology Research & Publications
- Court Technology Consultation Services
- Court Technology Turnkey Solutions
Considering that public sector funding is insufficient for the CCCT to deliver on these six programs, the CCCT seeks to develop permanent funding options that encompass private sector revenue streams. It is in that spirit that the CCCT Board of Directors authorized the issuance of a Sponsorship Request for Proposal (RFP) published on MERX last Friday. In the period 2013-2014, the CCCT aims to develop its operations in a way that builds clear value both to public and private sector. Some highlights of upcoming developments:
- The creation of a Private Sector Advisory Board (PSAB). The PSAB will not be a governance body of the CCCT. It will be a two-way consultation and advice channel for the CCCT CEO and companies that have partnered with the CCCT by way of sponsorship (see RFP above)
- The creation of a Court Technology Newsletter
- The creation of a Court Technology Knowledge Base
2013 should be an exciting year for court technology in Canada!