Time for Change in the Courts?

♫ Change
Now it’s time for change
Nothing stays the same
No it’s time for change… 

Lyrics and Music by Nikki Sixx, Donna McDaniel, recorded by Mötley Crüe.


On Oct 24-25, the second Canadian Forum on Court Technology will be held in Montreal. The challenge that this forum will be facing is how to bring about meaningful change to a dispute resolution process that has been resistant to change. Of course, the voices demanding increased access to justice and responsiveness to the needs of society are only getting louder. The factors for the courts to consider are many and the resources at hand are few. Budgets are stretched; people and time are limited. Unrepresented litigants are at an all-time high, the costs of resolving a matter through the courts are seen as being oppressive and the delays from incident to resolution are long. There is increasing pressure for the system to be more responsive, less costly, speedier and less technical.

Of course all of this is against a backdrop where technology relentlessly marches on – indeed if Moore’s Law (not a law typically cited in most courtrooms but applicable none-the-less) is true, the processing ability of information technologies doubles every 18 months while the cost halves.

Relying on Moore’s law, if Ray Kurzweil is anywhere close in his technological predictions, computers will equal the processing ability of the human mind by 2020 (that is, in less than a decade) and cost approximately $1000. In 8 years or so, we will have at hand technologies that will be more powerful than ourselves – and will have connected them to a network that far outstrips any prior network ever conceived. We will have built a machine the likes of which man has never seen. Moreover, the rate at which this machine itself will keep evolving is accelerating – Richard Susskind has stated that this exponential growth in information technology places us “at the doorstep of an era of change that is more profound and radical, in terms of technical progress, than humanity has ever seen.”

Accordingly it behooves us, as lawyers, judges, court administrators and others, to envision how to harness the ever-increasing power of information technology and apply it to the dispute resolution process. We also need to consider how the march of technology will place the court process under even more pressure.

Your humble scribe along with Dr. Frank Fowlie (the Internet Ombudsman) will be presenting on: “The Climate for Innovation in the Justice Sector, ODR and Access to Justice”. This will be followed by David Merner, Executive Director, Dispute Resolution Office
, Justice Services Branch, BC Ministry of Attorney General who will be presenting on: “Online Dispute Resolution and The Civil Resolution Tribunal.” This will be followed by the writer and Dr. Fowlie interviewing the Honourable Madam Justice Fran Kiteley (the organizer of the Forum), Richard J.M. Fyfe QC, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of Justice and Attorney General, Province of British Columbia and David Merner (and taking questions from the audience by email to: frank.fowlie@internetombudsman.biz and tweets to @david.bilinsky (twitter hash tag #CFCT) on the theme: “How to drive change in order to enhance access to justice.”

Of course, a major focus of this session will be the role that Online Dispute Resolution can play in the future of the courts. It should be a very interesting session and dialogue and I for one, am looking forward to it. The time for change has come.


  1. “Unrepresented litigants are at an all-time high, the costs of resolving a matter through the courts are seen as being oppressive and the delays from incident to resolution are long.”

    Let’s hope the change is positive because in many instances as much as things change they remain the same. Let us hope that the justice system doesn’t become one in which there are two systems — one for the rich and the “automated” justice system for the financially disadvantaged (as the above quote indicates is the direction in which we’ve already headed). Perhaps, s. 15 of the Charter should be amended to include the socioeconomically challenged to the list of the disadvantaged who should have the right to equality before and under the law. Let us hope that we will not revert to a society in which justice asks the questions: Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons? Just a thought.