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Case for court technology
It may not be a widely known fact, but courts throughout the Caribbean have been investing heavily and making great advances in leveraging technology to improve the administration of justice. For example, several courts now routinely post their rulings, opinions and filed papers on the Internet. Other have implemented or are testing electronic filing systems to save both time, paper and, ultimately, costs.
Tech with benefits
In technologically advanced courtrooms, audio-visual display and presentation systems, video-conferencing of remote witnesses, Internet access and real-time transcription tech are being used in a concerted effort to reduce trial time and associated costs. Such technology is also being used to help improve fact-finding by both judges, lawyers and juries.
By allowing proceedings to move quickly, the new technology permits courts to try more cases and reduces the delay between the filing of a case and its resolution. These benefits should only increase as courts continue to add technology, and as judges and litigants become more familiar with the features of the existing technology.
Use of courtroom technology can also permit greater access to proceedings by non-parties since they are able to see or hear anything that the jury can.
Similarly, rather than having to wade through boxes of evidence to find a physical copy of a case document, then show the document to the opposing counsel, the witness, the judge, and each juror one by one, an electronic copy can be easily shared with the relevant persons in a matter of seconds
5 Technologies Impacting Courts:
1. Evidence Presentation: Today, courtrooms are being equipped with high-resolution cameras, multimedia projectors, video monitors, microphones and hi-fidelity speaker systems. In some cases even the judge’s bench, jury-boxes and witness stands are being outfitted with flat-screen LCDs and touch-screen tablets.
To better engage members of the public, sports-bar styled large screen monitors are also being installed to allow them to also view evidence being presented. Courtroom can also be outfitted with strategically-placed microphones to permit speakers to be heard even while moving around the courtroom.
Cameras are also find a place in the digitally-enabled courtroom. Attorneys can use cameras to better present fingerprints, x-rays, maps and other evidence; or to zoom into fine print on contracts or documents.
2. Video Conferencing: Cameras, microphones and monitors can be used to take testimony from remote witnesses from another town, city or country. For example, a witness in a sensitive case may now testify safely via video conferencing; or an expert witness from another country may be saved the time, cost and hassle of traveling. Video conferencing also permits greater flexibility in scheduling cases.
3. E-Transcripts: E-transcripts are a safe and convenient way of delivering a transcript electronically. Transcripts can be encrypted and password protected, to enable speedy electronic delivery. This means lawyers can get their transcripts as soon as they are complete. E-transcripts can saved lawyers countless hours in reading through testimony to find a specific reference, by using hyperlink and word searchable now common in electronic document readers.
4. Real-time Transcription: Real-time transcription is a highly sought after service in courtrooms. It enables litigators to analyse testimony on a notebook or tablet computer as it happens in the courtroom so they can adjust their line of questioning, or seek further clarification on a matter, without having to request a read-back. It ensures that testimony given was delivered as it was intended to be.
5. Live Internet Streaming: This court reporting technology is one of the most exciting innovations currently available. It enables an unlimited number of people to view testimony as it happens, from any location. Live internet streaming has saved the legal industry a lot of money on travel expenses, since they can participate in legal proceedings from their office anywhere in the world.
Capacity to transform
Many of these technologies have long been adopted and enjoyed by business for years, in boardrooms, corporate offices. Yet the courts and justice system lagged woefully behind times.
Some members of the legal profession may view these modern gadgets and devices as an unnecessary encumbrance to courtroom proceedings. However, technology’s capacity to radically and permanently transform how justice can be administered should be beyond dispute.
The time is ripe to more emphatically seize the opportunities created by emerging technologies to improve the administration of justice, enhance public access and service, and bolster public trust and confidence. The jury is still out, however, on whether our courts possess the courage and resolve to create the courtroom of the future, today.
Are you a member of the legal profession or involved in the court system? What other technologies do you believe can play a positive role in improving the administration of justice? We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us at [email protected] brightpathfoundation.org
Bevil Wooding is Chief Knowledge Office at Congress WBN (C-WBN) an international non-profit organization and Executive Director at BrightPath Foundation, responsible for C-WBN’s technology education and outreach initiatives. Follow on Twitter: @bevilwooding
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