In the future, will failure to appear really mean that Skype was down?
More and more of yesterday’s work and living can be done online and at home today. We can pay bills, read, shop, buy and listen to music, watch movies, and socialize all over the internet. These are all pretty important things. I began to wonder that when so much of what we used to do before the internet revolution has been so drastically changed, why the court house has not become less brick and mortar? I wondered whether there is support for a move to virtual courts?
Well, as it turns out, my musings were pretty late to the show. In 1994, the U. of Arizona Law school conducted a “courtroom of the future” project. Through grants the Law School equipped a court room with the technology necessary to both transmit and receive video feeds. The technology has since gone through several incarnations, as capabilities have increased. Today the project serves as a functioning example of how people with disabilites may gain greater access to courts. There is also the ability for academic interactive functions. Administrators hope that the project will serve as a example of what technology has made possible and that the project may influence real courts in the future.
OK, so academia is pushing the envelope, but how close are we to a real ecourt? Chris Travers argues in his blawg on Realverdict.com that the beginning stages are upon us. Many arbitrations are already decided almost entirely virtually. The success of online arbitration has encouraged in increase in virtual alternative dispute resolution. The site that hosts Chris’s blawg is a forum for such dispute resolutions. Parties plead their cases to a forum of jurors in cyber space and agree to abide by the verdict rendered. Getting closer.
Travers argues that if a virtual court were to be adopted that dates could be obtained without long delays, court costs would be reduced because operating costs would diminish, and there would also be more time and attention to focus on the more substantial issues that would still require personal presence.
It seems that traffic court or some small claims disputes could be responsibly handled virtually. And if there is a life of crime in my future, I hope that virtual prisons are just over the horizon.