Digital justice in quarantine

by | May 18, 2020 | Articles | 0 comments

As we pointed out in a recent article, the Pandemic has revealed the chaotic situation that various areas of the national public sector are going through and the justice administration system is no exception, clearly our system collapsed long before the arrival of Covid 19, because incredibly despite the introduction of some proposals and programs for its modernization, it remains stagnant and archaic, reluctant to change the era, becoming inoperative, far from being a timely and effective justice service. As the old adage goes, “justice that delays is not justice”, and the old system seems to prove it at every moment, reluctant to structural and integral transformation.

The current situation, like all crises, should be the opportunity to dramatically accelerate the process of transformation to the digital era, pushing us to implement these changes on the fly, deploying human and mainly economic efforts, which must go beyond the implementation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) because the digitization of the system involves a comprehensive change, the challenge is immense but we are obliged to implement this paradigm shift, whose transformation involves a cultural change, and it is precisely the global emergency that will lead us to accelerate the processes, because ultimately every crisis is an opportunity.

While it is true that there is a National Plan for the modernization of justice dating from 2017, to date we would be in the phase related to the implementation of the so-called electronic judicial file (EJE) which digitizes cases in the civil and labor area for certain matters and years, in addition we have the electronic notification system (recently implemented in the criminal area), electronic box, and recently the virtual Table of parts has been announced for the entry of new processes, seeking to maintain social isolation and agglomeration of people. Likewise, the current situation has forced the use of technology through virtual hearings via Zoom and Google hangouts platforms, which has allowed the processing of processes mainly linked to issues of personal freedom in the criminal area, being in this area the Supreme Court who lead the way through the use of technology internally, for example scheduling during the pandemic, conducting virtual hearings, issuing its resolutions via virtual and digitization.

However, the change goes beyond technological platforms and infrastructures (for which there would be no budget). A true revolution implies the emergence of a culture different from what we ,justice operators, are used to, being necessary to banish apparently entrenched practices in the administration of justice, with the benefits that this implies in terms of effectiveness and efficiency in the resolution of cases, and improved access to justice in general, because through the use of technology we will reduce the entrenched bureaucracy in the courts, and reduce costs. Technology and cultural change within the judicial system will not solve the core problems, however, the work in human resources training, creation and reassignment of roles using technology, will allow us to give real focus to the objective of the judicial system which is to achieve justice.

Consequently, the Pandemic will be the starting point of change, or we will only be satisfied with the use of some digital mechanisms (hearings via virtual, virtual table of parts, virtual file) without this implying the real change that is wanted, and so often postponed, the dream of a modern justice, with the change of mentality, a real regulatory, organizational, structural reform to the new technological era. This should be the opportunity to initiate change through the rapid implementation of mechanisms and virtual platforms that exist, such as: communities and judicial social networks, electronic agenda, virtual training, virtual case follow-up (virtual file, virtual table of parties) and a long etcetera, that is, to move forward already in the implementation of those systems that generations of young lawyers wonder why they have not been introduced in the system, privileging technology and communication mechanisms within reach, which will result in the banishment of judicial saturation, increasing confidence and transparency in this branch of the State, reducing corruption rates, etc.

Are we ready for this transformation?
This romantic view of change cannot be alien to the reality of the justice system in various regions and provinces of our country, where we find large socioeconomic, geographic, cultural, etc. gaps, where there are places that do not even have a computer and internet. This brings us back to the “public management” implemented by our governments, and to the high corruption rates, against which it is the State that should be responsible for allocating the necessary resources (in human, logistical, economic terms, etc.) to implement the basic services of the communities, among them, the administration of justice, implementing justice modules at the service of the citizen with computer and internet services, etc; achieving the modernization of justice we will also achieve great benefits against a plague that never seems to leave us, which is the indifference and inequality, in front of the administration of effective and equal justice for all.

Perhaps it is time to push for the long-awaited reform, but this requires not only resources, but also the true political will and commitment of our rulers, since the problem is endemic and multisectoral. And in this way we will surely be able to restore institutionality to the Judiciary and the justice system in general.