On June 9th, world-renowned legal futurist Richard Susskind challenged the legal professions to determine how to use technology to address the fundamental responsibilities of courts, rather than to just use technology to enhance how courts operate. Appearing virtually from the United Kingdom, Professor Susskind delivered the keynote address at the Center for Legal & Court Technology’s 2021 Court Affiliates Conference, Justice from Anywhere.
The Center for Legal & Court Technology (CLCT) is a joint initiative of W&M Law School and the National Center for State Courts. CLCT’s mission is to improve the administration of justice through appropriate technology. The CLCT Court Affiliates are state, federal, native-American, and Canadian Courts that are supported by CLCT and which endeavor to assist each other. The 2001 virtual conference, attended by judges, court administrators, and technologists, including representatives of the Federal Judicial Center and Administrative Office of the United States Courts, emphasized online dispute resolution and remote appearances and virtual hearings and trials.
Associate Dean and Professor Nicolas Vermeys of the University of Montreal’s Law Faculty and Cyberjustice Laboratory, and visiting Associate Professor at William & Mary Law School, analyzed the current state of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). Subsequently, the Conference explored the actual implementation of one ODR product, Matterhorn, in the Fairfax, Virginia District Court.
The Conference’s second day emphasized virtual hearings and included programs on the major videoconferencing technology platforms, the availability of private vendors to conduct or assist virtual proceedings, and CLCT’s study of virtual proceedings conducted by major federal adjudicatory agencies.
In the Conference’s last substantive session, Matt Benefiel, Court Administrator of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, which includes the nation’s most technologically advanced state court courtroom, shared his predictions for court technology needs over the next five years. Mr. Benefiel discussed the transition to hybrid courtrooms that will allow for people to be in-person as well as remote, including the need for simultaneous interpretation..
Throughout the Conference, presenters and attendees discussed what the future will hold after the pandemic. There was a unanimous consensus that virtual aspects will remain; the question remains to what extent. Many felt that pretrial matters likely will remain virtual, while trials themselves, especially jury trials, will be in-person with potential remote witnesses.
The 2022 Court Affiliates Conference is tentatively scheduled for June 9-10, 2022 in Olathe, Kansas (Kansas City) hosted by the Tenth Judicial District of Kansas at their newly constructed courthouse. The Tenth District has promised great food and great conversations.