Advanced technology in the Court
The need to make the court system in the six-member states and three territories of the Eastern Caribbean more efficient was one of the reasons for the New Civil Procedure Rules in the year 2000. Part 1 provides the overriding objective with the resolve to ensure that cases are dealt with expeditiously. The Court recognizes technology as the route to go in helping to achieve the objective of speeding up case management.
The strides have been made in several areas the court could now accept FAX copies of documents. Rather than sending an office attendant to the chambers of every practitioner to take the court lists and notices, it is utilizing e-mail facilities for circulation of court lists and other information. The Chief Justice delivers his message to all nine jurisdictions at the opening of the new law term each year through video conferencing facility provided by Cable and Wireless. The Supreme court manages a website, which not only gives information on some aspects of the Court, but it is a repository for judgments from the High Court and the Court of Appeal. There is no doubt that these states and territories separated by waters could benefit from advanced technology. In February 2004, the first civil case was determined by teleconference with the Appeal Court Justices in St Lucia. The case was determined two days after it was filed.
The court launched the Judicial Enforcement Management System (JEMS), a programme to computerize civil court cases a few years ago. Today every case that is filed in the civil court must be recorded on the system. This does not make the Civil Court Registry paperless, because concurrently a hard copy must also be made. JEMS is useful in its own way as it enables a quick check on cases filed. The reservoir is not available to the lawyers and a manual search must still be carried out for cases. Perhaps with time and the necessary security it would be made available.
The focus is now on e-filing and video conferencing. These are already in use in some places of the USA. The court would not be left behind in the technological world. We can use the facilities of banks and a few other institutions to pay our bills on line. The National Commercial Bank provides services to pay all our utility bills on-line. We can use e-accounts with Cable and Wireless to view our accounts on-line. It would therefore be in keeping with the technological developments elsewhere for the court to develop a system to file documents via the internet. Video conferencing would facilitate the interactive communication between Justices of the Court of Appeal and the lawyers in the several jurisdictions while the Justices remain at their headquarters in St Lucia.
According to Chief Justice Rawlins “the new technology promises to increase the efficiency of court proceeding with less time and money spent on travel and transportation.â
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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