Tuesday, March 22, 2011


For two year old Bridger who already moves with dexterity over the face of his iPad, cyberjustice will be automatic in both acceptance and practice when and if he is a lawyer or a judge. It is our present older generations that struggle with the concept.

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.


  1. Excellent and compelling points, Ron.

    Now I'm wondering how full of personal data about the Baynes this judgment is, because maybe it was deliberately made full of personal data, and not necessarily accurate personal data, so that the Baynes and other parents would not want it publicized.

    It is very difficult obviously for these parents and other parents who are victims of such overwhelming, and abusive, power. The constant threats and intimidation - not to mention the fact the government has possession of your most precious possession, your children - makes the battle insanely difficult and lopsided. But what MCFD and all these other so-called child protection agencies seek to do - and they are obviously very successful at it - is to beat parents into submission, so that the parents are terrified of going public.

    But what the parents must realize is that MCFD is also terrified of parents going public. The WORST thing that can happen to the child protection industry - from their point of view -is publicity. That is why they fight for publication bans, that is why they terrorize parents with threats, that is why MCFD has decreed that there will be no more photos, and that is why Crabtree's ruling was not made available, to the public, in digital format.

    But we've reached a turning point, and I suspect MCFD and the judge know it. People are demanding the truth, and when that happens, the truth will always out.

    So, while all the fear may seem to be on the side of the parents and those who fear for them and their children, keep in mind that those who are not in fact working for the best interests of the children know that they are not really protecting children, and they must have a deep and horrible fear that they will be exposed.

    If all parents always went public, it is quite possible that this kind of corrupt power could not exist.

  2. You wonder how much personal data is in the Judge's ruling? I have read the entire ruling. It was the information that pertained to the case, every detail that was presented in court by counsels and witnesses. Whether it was accurate or not was up to the Judge to decide. The ruling is entitled 'his reasons' for his decision. It's not fabricated. It is difficult to live with the fact that allegations against someone, whether true or untrue, are out in a public domain as accessible as the internet.

  3. Technology is grand, but not to be worshipped at the expense of other traditional mechanisms. My kids all have have iPod Touch's. I am guilty of plunking my child down in front of a TV during infancy as my wife had this great idea that baby einstein videos would educate our child early.

    What I saw instead was a transfixed, motionless infant focus on the object and NOT with me or surroundings. I turned off the TV and read books and colored and pained pictures with my child instead.

    It is important, as this video shows, to be part of the entire interaction as this parent in the video is, and not use technology to free up your time for other "more important" things. Or, in the case of court, have a technological advantage on one side but not permit the opposing side equal access.

    Technology already exists to address the single largest shortcoming in family trials, and that is real-time transcription of proceedings.

    In the old days, a stenographer was a fixture in courtrooms. Judges would ask the stenographer to recount past testimony. Today, this is no longer possible. It is illegal for recording devices to be brought into a public courtroom.

    Now, it takes months and thousands of dollars to have transcripts produced, even for a few hours of testimony. Copies of such transcripts cost 100 times or more than normal photocopies. Electronic copies are only available if you pay the full price first, and you are not allowed to redistribute it for free.

    If the chief justice is serious about allowing public access, then he should be equally fired up about using technology to capture trial proceedings and at least allow parents an equal chance at defending themselves.

    If you go up to the top floors (6th and 7th) of the Vancouver BC Supreme Courthouse, you will see specially equipped courtrooms that have numerous monitors and real-time transcription systems. Words magically scroll across monitors viewed by judges, jury, visitors and litigants as they are spoken. With computer-assisted speech to text recognition systems, today's stenographers and court reporters have a huge advantage and increased productivity in converting speech to text.

    However, this is only for 'expensive' trials, it is most certainly not available to low-budget family court systems.

    Judge Crabtree appeared to quote very specific spoken testimony, which leads me to believe he ordered trial transcripts. Making this available to the public would permit more in-depth rebuttal to his ruling.

    Focused criticism from the public would direct the next judge in a similar case to be more careful in his deliberation.

    We the public cannot be ignored forever, which seems to be the case now. Thankfully, technology does exist now to address these shortcomings. For some of us, implementation of this technology is not happening fast enough.


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