Since the arrival of COVID-19 and the impacts it has had on the judicial system, civil courts have adopted digital tools to facilitate case proceedings. Clients, legal teams, and judges have had to adapt to the pandemic’s restrictions by using audio and videoconferencing, which have presented both conveniences and challenges to everyone involved.
Although new measures have made it possible for the justice system to work around the restrictions imposed to control the pandemic, video and audio hearings present a number of challenges, particularly for self-represented parties.
If you have a civil litigation matter on your hands, such as a personal injury claim, you should retain the services of a personal injury lawyer, rather than trying to navigate the legal system on your own. Even if you feel comfortable managing the digital tools required, your lawyer will provide the knowledge, expertise and experience that can make all the difference in securing your desired outcome.
Wynperle Law reviews the advancements and setbacks that Canadians have been experiencing since the start of the pandemic.
How Technology Impacts Clients
Even before the pandemic, technology had a significant role in people’s lives, whether it was in their work or their entertainment. Because of this, it’s easy to forget that the latest technology isn’t available to everyone. Additionally, technology in the justice system was not as advanced as you might think.
Lacking Basic Technology
Individuals may not have access to what is considered “basic” technology because of their situation, they may be homeless, unemployed, or fighting an eviction. Some individuals have been forced to use a payphone to participate in hearings, which constitutes a major disadvantage and is clearly problematic.
More and Less of a Hassle
Criminal court cases often require clients or their lawyer to appear in court every few weeks as a way of checking in. Clients with basic technology have found the remote proceedings to be convenient since they have not needed to find child care or travel to the courthouse.
On the other hand, remote proceedings in criminal court cases have been challenging since lawyers and clients must hang up or exit a video call with the court in order to have private conversations, and then return to the collective phone or video call. The pandemic has made many realize how convenient it was to be in the same room where you could whisper to your client or lawyer for clarification. Some judges are aware of this and are accommodating by consistently reminding the parties that they could interrupt the proceedings to have a private conversation at any time.
EXTRA STEPS FOR IDENTIFICATION CONFIRMATION
Accused individuals usually need to provide identification to court staff or for a police background check. During the pandemic, the work-around has been for the accused person to take one close up photo of their ID and one selfie photo that shows themselves beside the ID.
How Technology Impacts the Courts & Legal Teams
For court staff and legal teams, the increased use of communication technology has created a number of issues, which require some on-the-spot problem solving when they arise.
Advanced Planning Necessary
Lawyers and their legal teams need to be planning ahead to avoid potential issues during the proceedings. If they know their client is located in a rural area with a history of bad WiFi connectivity, they must help their client find a way to be continually present for the phone call or videoconference. Sometimes, using a payphone is the only solution, which can make getting a hold of the client difficult. If something detains them on their way to a payphone, the court doesn’t know if and when to proceed.
No Facial Cues or Eye Contact
In cases where an audioconference is being held, the court staff and legal teams can’t see facial expressions or make eye contact. These basic indicators often help lawyers determine whether witnesses are lying or what questions to ask next. As a result, credibility assessments for the court are much harder now. Eye contact with clients helps lawyers put their clients at ease.
Not Enough Time
Judges often have many cases on their docket each day, so when problems arise with internet or phone connections, it’s not always possible for them to wait until the problems are resolved.
More Changes to Come
The Canadian Bar Association recently voted and passed various resolutions that aim to modernize the justice system to make it more accessible and equitable to Canadians. The resolutions include:
- Improving the “access to justice crisis” by asking individuals in the justice system to find innovative methods for helping low- and middle-income Canadians who need access to civil legal services.
- Urging dispute resolution bodies, including mediators, to implement permanent remote proceedings when necessary, in addition to creating an active group that collaborates with justice system partners in the exploration of circumstances that could benefit from remote proceedings.
Civil court proceedings will be undergoing changes this year to better meet pandemic-related challenges.
Hire Wynperle Law to See Justice Done Right
At the start of the pandemic, everyone was using technology to manage their circumstances. But going into the third year of COVID-19, we see that technology’s larger role in Canada’s justice system will continue to grow and improve.
According to the National Observer, Chief Justice Richard Wagner said this month: “I think that the excellence of our justice system, whether it be criminal or civil, will depend on more use of the technology.”
With the help of Wynperle Law, you will gain access to the resources you need, no matter what kind of legal issue you are facing, for in-person or remote court proceedings.
Contact us today for a free consultation!