Can Courts Keep Up With Tech?


With the speed at which technology hurtles forward, it’s amazing if tech companies can keep up. However, recent initiatives have sought to bring the courtroom into the 21st century, hopefully before the robot lawyers of the 21st century show up.

A recent white paper from Thomson Reuters, Bringing the Courthouse into the 21st Century, goes into detail on how some courts are trying to catch up, and how far off we are from the dream of online courts. (Disclosure: Thomson Reuters is FindLaw’s parent company.)

What’s the Current Court-Tech Status?

While you might think that most courthouses are woefully under-equipped when it comes to technology, you’d be surprised. Many courts across the country have highly sophisticated systems in place. Perhaps you’ve seen a few courtrooms with flat-panel televisions, projection screens that retract from ceiling, or maybe even that mythical wifi signal that actually provides access to the internet.

Automating Court Systems

As the white paper’s author suggests, courthouses particularly need to be cognizant of tech compatibility issues. The paper provides examples of courts that have multiple different systems for different types of cases, and describes how this leads to tech problems down the road, as each different system requires special handling. It’s suggested that automating court processes and forms would allow the use of public terminals to provide streamlined services to in person visitors to the court, which would be much fewer as automating more systems would allow for greater online access and functionality.

Is Online Court a Pipe Dream?

Like online CLEs, eventually online court will be a normal thing. We already do telephonic court appearances. And as the white paper explained, parties and witnesses have appeared via live video before. The technology is here, available, and not overly costly. In all reality, once an online court system is up and running, the likelihood of cost-savings are rather high.

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