How are courts using online tools to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic? On Sunday, March 29, I asked my Twitter and LinkedIn contacts for information about online tools courts use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you all for sending sources of information. I now have some information on 90 geographic entities, countries, states and territories. They come from the International Association of Judges – thank you, Paulo Roberto Dornelles Junior, Labor Judge Member of the International Relations Secretariat of the Brazilian Magistrates Association for your March 22, 2020 report. And thank you, Norman Meyer, for pointing me to the excellent NCSC web page, by the National Center for State Courts in the US. My third major source is remotecourts.org.
Here are some first impressions. Clearly, the pandemic has not hit each of those entities to the same extent, and this also influences the measures taken. 9 entities appear not to have taken any measures yet: some states in the Mid-West of the US, some in Africa. Some court systems stay open and leave decisions on how to proceed to the case judges, taking the local COVID-19 regime into account. Most courts have cancelled in-person hearings. A number of systems have closed their courts altogether, except for urgent matters. They postpone cases until after the crisis where possible.
My main interest is in the use of IT to continue providing services. I looked at remote work for court staff and judges, remote hearings, and digital filing. Remote work for staff and judges is mentioned by 5 entities. My guess is that quite a few entities do not think this is worth mentioning, since it is business as usual. 13 entities say they use remote hearings, mostly for urgent cases only. They mention Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Zoom video and the Vidyo app as their technologies of choice. 6 entities mention digital filing, which may include using dedicated email. Here again, where digital filing is not exceptional, why mention it?
So, it seems courts and courts systems where working remotely is business as usual have few problems staying open for business. Others now seem to be scrambling to catch up. I need more information to verify these first impressions, so keep the info coming in, either at my Twitter account @doryontour or my linkedin page.