Friday, September 20, 2013

CTC2013 day 3: what's the big idea?

Bench and Chambers 2023 was the title of our judges' panel - Roberto Torres, David Harvey, Martin Gonzales and myself - on Thursday morning. Ten years ago, Facebook and Twitter did not exist yet and Money Claim On Line had only just started. So who can tell where things may be ten years from now? The panel speculated away, and tried to make some educated guesses on the way: no more court buildings, everyone, including jury members, will work from home, evidence will be displayed on the 3D screens we will all have in our homes by then. Brain imaging technology will change the way we determine guilt, big data (all those court decisions and other information) will bring performance analysis of courts and lawyers to the general public, and sentencing analysis to the courts. On line communication will be the norm, and the judges will be digital natives who can cope with all the technology seamlessly. Most of the court users will be self representing litigants. It was a great session, the audience was very engaged, and they just would not leave.

The big idea of CTC2013: e-filing, digital natives, SRLs
E-filing seems to be the big idea of this edition of CTC. It saves court staff capacity, and in some cases produced a 20% faster disposition, even with a double caseload compared to the baseline. The other big theme was the Digital Native. How to empower digital native court users was part of nearly every discussion, with the Self Representing Litigant (SRLs) a close second. Clearly, the future will be hard for tomorrow's lawyers, but also for tomorrow's courts. 
It is always a privilege to see where the discussion is going in the most technologically-experienced jurisdiction in the world. My impression is that some court systems in Europe are catching up quickly. I wish they would get together and exchange experience like the US courts do at CTC. Congratulations to the National Center for State Courts for yet another successful CTC.

CTC2013 Day 2: focusing on the users

On Wednesday morning, Karl Agen presented the results of a poll of the public's opinion of the courts. His slides are here. The report can be found here: People's idea of the courts as largely based on what they see on television. There are 73 different Law & Order shows on television right now. People associate courts with unnecessary lawsuits, inefficiency and bureaucracy. Advisory: customers want efficiency and respect at their point of contact with the courts, 73% think investment in new technology can make a difference, they want to do business with the courts the way they do with their banks, i.e. from home. 

In the afternoon, I was part of "the world's largest jury", in a trial to test display technology by the Center for Legal and Court Technology, led by prof. Fred Lederer. Our job was to decide whether, and if so, which of two people involved in some small scale road rage should be held responsible for an injury sustained by one of them. The test involved displaying a brick with alleged traces of blood and hair and a baseball bat with alleged traces of contact with the brick on a 2D screen, and on different types of 3D screens, from a 3D image camera. The members of the world's largest jury wore different types of 3D glasses. The jury voted by show of hands. I wondered whether the 3D projection made any difference to the outcome, but that was not the point of the exercise. 

Next, I attended what was more a class than a presentation, on e-discovery. This means that David Harvey and Daniel Garrie taught me a lot I did not yet know. Coming from a jurisdiction that does not have mandatory discovery, I look for those elements of this class that are relevant for handling electronic evidence in a more general sense, and for using electronic means to do so. 
 What you need to know may not be in the legible text of the document, but in its metadata. For instance, where an email was sent from, or when. Therefore, you want the document in native form. Lawyers also need to know their clients' business, including how they run their information services. Courts should be proactive in moving the e-discovery process forward, using case conferences and possible cost shifting. 
Methodologies include keyword searching using a white or blacklist, excluding duplicates, concept searching and predictive coding. The process needs to be geared by reasonableness and proportionality: is what is at stake worthe the effort and resources involved? Helpful: the New Zealand checklist, and model orders available in the 7th circuit of Northern California. The class was much more entertaining than can be gleaned from this very brief summary.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ctc2013 day 1:2 more or less effective discussions

Tuesday morning, the first education session in the tech for judges track. My colleague Martin Gonzales, federal judge from Denver, Co., speaks about the problems court users can have with e-filing. Clearly, we need to serve them as well as everyone else. The point of my own presentation is that courts and judges need to understand how they process information in their cases, in order to grasp what IT can do for them. Simplification will make legal protection available to more people, and the market for legal information is changing dramatically. 
The session by the Nebraska e-courts was a neat description of what it means to take small steps when developing IT in your court.
At lunch, with the judges panel to prepare our Thursday morning, 8:30 discussion on tech for judges in 2023, we hit it off right away with a discussion on sentencing guidelines and how to computerize them - for advisory purposes only, of course.
Flags here are at half mast after the Navy yard shooting. On television, discussions on how it could have been prevented follow the by now common pattern: how come agencies did not have the information that now turns out to have been available, and whether or not to have more gun control.
Next is a q and a-session on social media that I find hard to follow because it has the format of a game I don't know, the group discussions are not amplified and the light level in the conference room is too low to even see who is speaking. Therefore, what I pick up from this session is a little haphazard: Court staff are not allowed to make themselves known as such when using social media, and jurors can be held in contempt if they use social media while on jury duty. The central message, however, is clear: every court should have a social media policy. 
The final session for the day was about responding to the demand for disruptive technologies. This turned out to be an interesting discussion, mainly between court IT staff as far as I could tell. What challenges them most are things like the permanent shortage of bandwidth, iPads, and judges who expect their personal devices to be serviced by the court IT staff, in one case even on a Saturday. The term disruptive technology was used earlier by Richard Susskind, who identified ODR as a technology that disrupts the lawyer's traditional way of doing business. The most disruptive element I could glean from the discussion here are no doubt the judges, at least in the perception of their IT staff. Enough for the day!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CTC 2013 day 1: Ride the wave of change and go viral

day 1: ride the wave of change and go viral
CTC2013 opende with a keynote by Alec Ross, innovation adviser to Hillary Clinton and one of the whizkids on Barack Obama's 2008 election campaign. He pointed out some major trends: decentralization of power and loss of control. Those who are most adaptable to change can survive. Alec gave some interesting examples of the use of technology that took that context into account. The first was a project to increase crime reporting in drug-kartel-infested Northern Mexico. Denunzia Anonyma used encrypted sms messaging, and people started reporting crimes again using their cell phones. Next was the Icow app for dairy farmers in Kenya, used by the Maasai, an increasing their income by 30% by mapping cattle productivity. This app won a contest for the best African app.
Both these examples defy existing stereotypes of developing countries.
The 21st century is a terrible time to be a control freak. The way to go is to understand that loss of control and ride the wave, empowering digital natives, taking intelligent risks and be tolerant of mistakes. Last advice: give the naysayers credit, make everyone look good and share credit. If you do something that works, it will go viral.

Monday, September 16, 2013

CTC2013 preview

This blog left off in October 2011 after #CTC2011 ended. Today, as #CTC2013 is about to begin, it starts again. Meanwhile, technology has advanced.
This morning, my project at home had an important meeting. I participated from Washington, DC using Facetime on my Ipad. That was not possible in 2011 - well, not for me anyway. I think video communication will change the way we do court cases considerably in the years to come. As it gets cheaper, it may well become a means to provide more legal protection to more user groups for whom going to court is unaffordable right now.
Richard Susskind says the "high street law firm" does not have a future, it is not an affordable way of providing legal services. The future is not for corner shops, but for more supermarket-like setups. I wonder if that is also true for courts.
At CTC2013, I will be participating in an educational session on information technology for judicial officers. My talk will focus on how we process information, a topic largely overlooked in the  IT discussions. This session is part of a thread on IT for judicial officers. On Thursday, some of the speakers from this thread will do a panel discussion on tech for judges in 2023. I am still thinking about the themes to choose for this discussion, which will hopefully be interactive, since that is the added value of a panel.
So now, off to Baltimore! - and more in this blog tomorrow!