Friday, September 13, 2019

CTC2019 Day Three

On the final day of CTC2019, there was still some interesting stuff to take with us. I attended a panel discussion about introducing Online Dispute Resolution in court systems. What makes this so interesting, is that it does not replace an existing court process to improve it, but it is an entirely new process, designed to support self-representing litigants in representing themselves in a process that is as simple as possible. In Utah, they “have made a wild animal”. I like that, because experience shows that replacing existing court procedures with a digital version may not solve any problems. However, designing an entirely new procedure leveraging the power of IT can increase access to justice and reduce disposition time. Initiatives also exist in Alaska and Hawaii. In Alaska, the procedure will be for traffic tickets, which poses a specific set of problems because it is a criminal procedure. For Hawaii, still in the development phase as well, the big benefit is in handling your case online instead of having to travel to the island where the court is. Utah is piloting its wild animal, and I will follow it to see where it goes next.

CTC2019 Day Two

Day Two kicked off with a talk on cyber predictions for the 2020s by Dan Lohrman, Chief Security Officer at Security Mentor Inc. Clearly, cybersecurity is increasingly becoming an issue for courts, and for everyone else for that matter. A major factor here is the fact that we have come to depend on technology for more and more purposes. Our smartphones are our tool to organize our lives: banking, smart homes, online ordering. Data security is a major issue for courts as they go increasingly digital in their work processes. Did you know that less than half of all smartphone users use passwords or biometrics to protect their data?
The rest of the morning was devoted to Tyler Technologies and some other vendors presenting their Showcase Solutions, mostly case management systems.
In the afternoon, the presentation by David Robinson, visiting scientist to the AI Policy and Practice Initiative, on Civil Rights and Pretrial Risk assessments, was an great follow-on to our workshop on AI on Day One. Background to this presentation is the effort to reduce pretrial detention: getting rid of bail, and detention only for those situations where is it really necessary. Research shows that measures to reduce pretrial detention often result in increased detention, for instance in the case of the New Jersey Initial Release Decisions. Pretrial Risk Assessments cannot safely be assumed to reduce pretrial incarceration, and it may even displace onther reforms that would be effective. For instance: narrow who should be jailed, robust hearings soon after arrest  - in the Netherlands, an arrested person needs to be seen by a judge within 48 hours after arrest - new supportive services to mitigate the risks - a simple thing is to text message defendants reminding them of their hearing - and get rid of the bail system as a routine measure. WHen using the assessment, ensure transparency, community oversight and governance, ensure decisions are rare, deliberate, and independent of risk assessment.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

On Day One, the conference was kicked off with a keynote by prof. Richard Susskind. He gave us a preview of his new book that is coming out in November: Online courts and the future of justice. Traditional courts will lose respect, unless they go online, he says. Ten years ago in Denver, we talked about the growing numbers of self-representing litigants and how they could be helped to get justice. These days, they are somewhat harshly called “SRLs”, but for the rest there is also good news. Some court systems are developing or piloting online dispute resolution, aka ODR, tacked on to the front end of their court procedures. Justice Himonas of the Utah Supreme Court tells me their ODR - still in a pilot in a few courts - has resulted in more defendant engagement, which was also the intention with the project. Other states like Alaska and New Jersey are doing similar things. In the Utah courts, parties in a small claims case have the first 48 hours to negotiate among themselves, and then a facilitator steps in to guide them through a mediation-type process. If unsuccessful, they can opt for a simple court procedure or a traditional one. If the evaluations are positive, it will be rolled out to the entire state of Utah. The mediation phase is mandatory, but so far no one has used the opt-out possibility. The whole process is online.
And yes, also on day one, I moderated a workshop on Artificial Intelligence, with prof. Nicolas Vermeys of Montreal University, the Cyberjustice Lab, and Shannon Salter, chair of the Civil Resolution Tribunal in Vancouver. What is AI, how does it work, how is it applied in Vancouver, what are the known drawbacks, can they be countered with the Ethical Principles developed by the Quality Group of the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice.