As part of the sweeping reforms, the Augusta System was developed. The System is an efficient, paperless system and reports so far show that the platform is highly accessible for both staff and citizens and that it saves time and speeds up the legal process. Let’s dive deeper into the System and see what all the fuss is about!
Back in 2012, the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Provincia de Buenos Aires), launched two tools as part of a progressive plan to computerise the administration of Justice. The tools, videoaudiences and electronic presentations, sought to reduce the time of some routine procedures and allow stakeholders to have greater control of the proceedings. The videoaudience tool involved the recording of proceedings onto a DVD. A copy would then be sent to each of the parties, along with a summary of the minutes. Having an electronic record like this, which was also stored on a server of the Court, ensured that any attempted adulteration was evident as it bore the digital signature of the judge. Electronic presentations also had substantial advantages and allowed either a lawyer, or one of the parties, to make presentations in cases already initiated without having to go to court by simply entering a portal on the Internet, completing a form, and then sending the document, which could either be a text document or a PDF file. This system also used digital signature technology to leave a clear record of who made the electronic submission.
Electronic presentations have come some way since then. As of April 2016, more than 2 million procedures have been made in a digital format. Users who need help with the system can view the tutorials available in video format or call the service centre.
A comprehensive multi-jurisdiction and multi-instance management system has also been built to allow for the management of these digital files. The Augusta System, officially known as the Gestión Asistida Multifuero (GAM), is a customised media portal, built on Microsoft .NET where citizens can access the cases that have been registered electronically and view video recordings through an integration with Azure Media Services. Previously, if a courthouse needed information from the register, it would typically take 50 days from the time of the request to receiving the document. This is now resolved in a day’s time. The early results are promising and will hopefully improve court efficiency dramatically in the years to come. For a full list of the technologies used, see here.
The most recent advancement in Argentina in this space has been the Prometea System of predictive artificial intelligence. Juan Gustavo Corvalán, a notable academic and lawyer, describes Prometea as the first predictive AI at the service of justice. It has been piloted at the Public Prosecutor’s Office and is used to reach an opinion on a file. The system reads the title of the case, and then looks through the Superior Court of Justice of the City of Buenos Aires’ website and then associates it with another number (linked to the main proceedings) and then heads to the Judiciary website of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. It searches and reads First and Second Instance rulings, and it then it analyses more than 1400 Legal Opinions (issued during 2016 and 2017) to finally issue a prediction. In short, it detects a specific model to solve the case file. Users can interact with the system by voice commands or by chat, so no specific training is required. This form of e-justice certainly has its fair share of challenges and opportunities. Alejandro Batista notes that one of the challenges with this type of system is that it fails to account for leading cases that set a precedent for how to interpret and apply the law.
The Augusta System was initially created as a case management system that could accurately record judicial processes and store data. However, as time went on, the System allowed increased functionality and now the System can capture all of the documentation that was originally contained in the traditional judicial file. Despite this, Carlos Jonathan Ordoñez, an academic and prominent commentator on this subject, suggests that Argentina is still very far from the utopian digital file. It is interesting to read that in fact, the file may contain:
1. Procedural acts documented in physical format;
2. Procedural acts documented in physical format and reproduced in a digital format;
3. Procedural acts documented in digital format and reproduced in physical format;
4. Procedural acts documented in digital format and not reproduced.
Ordoñez goes on to promote not just a new way of working, but also a new way of thinking. The common pitfall that tends to plague many tech projects, is the fact that the new systems are not used in a way that represents a new way of thinking. Let’s hope that the systems does not just enable bad processes to happen quicker, but that it will be a catalyst for much needed change.
Unfortunately, though, technical difficulties may get in the way of this efficiency. Very recently, it was reported that due to problems associated with the management systems of the Family Court and the Labor Court, the electronic list was not available to the public on the official site. When these technical issues get in the way, it spells trouble.