Does ‘Going Digital’ Improve Judicial Performance? Top 5 Pros And Cons Of e-Reporting

Digital Surveillance

Published on May 25th, 2018

More and more courts are going digital. But does this improve judicial performance?

'Going Digital' Improve Judicial Performance

The World Development Report thinks and so does the legal literature on‘e-justice’. ‘Digital Dividends,’ using digital technologies “have boosted growth, expanded opportunities, and improved service delivery,” according to the report.

As electronic court reporting is one key aspect of this trend, we take this opportunity to look at the pros and cons of improving judicial performance in different contexts:

Pros of e-reporting

Some of the potential benefits of e-reporting systems include:

  1. Civilizing behavior: courtroom monitoring encourages more courteous behavior, which can, in turn, improve demeanor, norms of behavior, user experience, and satisfaction with the judicial process.
  2. Increasing efficiency: having real-time transcription allows judges and lawyers to see the transcript feed and make notes as it scrolls by, enabling them to review recent testimony and markup transcripts for review – saving time and money for the court, lawyers, and parties. This also allows parties and adjudicators to focus on the proceedings rather than taking notes.
  3. Improving transparency and accountability: e-records can offer comfort to citizens that the proceedings are legitimate and there will be evidence of irregular behavior. Appellate courts can use recordings to review proceedings in lower courts and ensure their procedural integrity, especially in cases that rely on visual or oral cues.
  4. Preventing procedural abuse or corruption: while e-recording can’t stop crime from happening outside of the courtroom (some argue it merely shifts corruption further underground), greater monitoring can have a chilling effect.
  5. Increasing access to justice: court reporting can aid deaf participants during a trial with real-time transcription or audio amplification and improve the quality of translation and interpretation. A/V offers more friendly environments for depositions of vulnerable victims and defendants as they can take place outside the court room.

Cons of e-reporting

But e-recording also has its drawbacks.

  1. Automated systems can be cumbersome, costly, and cause delays, since they need to be regularly maintained and the technology is not always open source.
  2. All technology is not equal. Video recordings cost more and require bigger e-files to store than audio recordings. Any courtroom technology also requires skilled staff, able to administer it effectively, adding additional costs for training and support.
  3. The technology requires more time – e.g. reviewing a 5-hour testimony requires 5 hours of watching video but only 30 minutes to read a transcript.
  4. Malfunctions can prove disastrous, sometimes requiring retrials.
  5. Payment for these services remains an open question – is transcription outsourced or done by court staff? Can parties transcribe?

Source: World Bank Blog