Clearly there is socio-cultural and psycho-scientific unwillingness to change in most areas of our lives. This has been particularly true in a realm where tradition, custom, predictable patterns and dependence on regulations, symbolize the justice system. These hallmarks may not be effectively serving the justice system any longer. People have difficulty accessing justice in our system because of the excessive legal costs and the bottle-necked courts, so necessity is compelling the judicial community to utilize technology. The accelerating potential of technology will transform the courtroom. Certainly it must be a carefully studied modification because there are substantial traditions in law. Can these traditions be adapted to the digital age? The research must convincingly determine how our new technologies influence the trial process.
We get an idea from an Ontario Paternity case that caused a stir when the judge allowed the use of Facebook to serve papers on a defendant. The child's mother did not have nor could she locate a postal address for the father of the child but she did track him through the social networking site. A message accompanied by legal documents were sent to him and his response was sufficient to convince the Superior Court Justice that the defendant was aware of the suit against him. That doesn't seem like a big deal, except that this choice was made recently within a highly conservative legal profession.
Graeme Hamilton wrote Digitalizing the Law, a fascinating article for the National Post, in which he speaks of cyber-justice, and the need to move away from traditional courtroom rituals and to make way for technology.
"The Universite de Montreal has inaugurated a $6-million cyber-justice laboratory, directed by Mr. Benyekhlef, to examine how technology can improve the administration of justice. The provincial and federal governments funded the fully wired model courtroom. Researchers plan to stage trials in which electronic document filing will replace the mountains of paper usually generated and witnesses will be able to testify via video. They will even experiment with holographic technology to project a three-dimensional image of a remote witness into the courtroom. The biggest obstacle to moving the courtroom into the 21st century is not the technology but the legal profession’s aversion to change.” You can learn more about Learn more about the Cyber-Justice Project, visit the CRDP Website.
Our own Chief Justice Thomas Crabtree will not be among those who are shy about change. During the Bayne case with the MCFD, he entered the court room each day, laptop in hand, placed it in front of him, referenced documents and was constantly recording his own notes. In fact, he was one of the resource people at the inaugural Canadian Forum on Court Technology ( CFCT) which was presented by the Canadian Centre for Court Technology (CCCT). It advertised learning about the use of technology in courts and discovering new trends, new methods and new products and key players in the field of court technology. The forum was held in Ottawa and Judge Crabtree's presentation entitled 'Savings and Technology : Take a Tour' was done via video-conferencing.
It is reasonable to forecast that we are moving toward a fully wired courtroom in which witnesses will be able to testify via video and electronic document filing will replace mountains of paper. If eventually, we will have holographic imaging to project into the courtroom a three dimensional image of a remote witness, it is reasonable now to expect to see online the judge's ruling on the Bayne case. I would certainly like you to be able to read the digital document of Judge Crabtree's ruling posted transparently and publicly. It is already in a pdf form and could so easily be placed online by the court registry. Unless it is simply a matter of being edited to remove names, particularly those of the children, the delay is mystifying.
I would not presume to know that the Baynes are eager to have it online. It's full of personal data that would now be public. However, the public desires to read it. They want to know how this decision was made. Thousands of people, many in British Columbia but also across the country have an interest in this case and have followed it closely.