A Focus on E-Trials
The Canadian Centre for Court Technology/Centre canadien de technologie judiciaire is currently hosting its inaugural Canadian Forum on Court Technology conference in Ottawa, Ontario. This two-day conference started yesterday, and is extremely well attended by lawyers, judges, and technology experts from across Canada.
Following an opening plenary session with The Honourable Madam Justice Louise Charron of the Supreme Court of Canada, the various sessions scheduled on Day One were broken into three themes: “What Has Been Done?”, “What’s Next?”, and “Savings and Technology”. I joined Master Calum MacLeod and Martin Felsky on a panel addressing “An Introduction to E-Discovery and its Impact on Trials”. Our session emphasized the cost and time savings of keeping information that is created and stored electronically in its original format, throughout the e-discovery and trial phases.
Discussions of e-trials took centre stage yesterday. While more lawyers are engaging with e-discovery, e-trials (entirely electronic trials) remain extremely rare in Canada. Panelists (judiciary and lawyers) throughout the day took the position that e-trials promote access to justice, lower costs, better lawyers and judges, and strengthen advocacy. Session participants and panelists expressed a need for the judiciary and the court system to do more to facilitate the presentation of electronic evidence at trial.
No disagreement there. However, promoting the use of technology in the courtroom has to be a top-down, bottom-up initiative. If lawyers don’t come to court prepared to do e-trials, there will be little incentive for the judiciary and court administration to ensure the facilities are in place to accommodate them.