Australia can be considered one of the leading jurisdictions when it comes to e-justice. Nearly all Australian courts and tribunals have an online presence and Australia has managed to secure the spot of being “first” across a number of areas:
- Australia’s Federal Court was the first judicial setting to put in place electronic court files, and is now seen as a global leader in how to manage digitised court documents, and
- NSW is set to be the first jurisdiction to trial online dispute resolution (ODR) in a superior court setting, being the Supreme Court’s Possession List.
In NSW, Online Court is a digital service, which enables legal practitioners and registrars to manage and process preliminary orders (call-overs) without having to enter the courtroom. They are able to exchange written messages about NSW Supreme, District or Local Court matters, instead of attending court to have the same exchange in person. Online court is only available to legal practitioners who are representatives in a case, and their nominated support staff.
The Online Registry allows users to file selected civil forms online, see information about their case, including details of proceedings, parties, legal representatives and documents which have been filed, download case-related documents which have been filed online and Search the online case list to see when and where a case will be heard.
The New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) ran a pilot in 2014 in relation to consumer disputes focusing on lower values claims (under $5000). Automated software guided parties through issue identification, joint development of solutions and ultimately the generation of a negotiated agreement or a withdrawal. Feedback from this pilot was generally positive and showed that:
- 65% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that ODR was convenient and that they would use it again
- 63% agreed or strongly agreed that the ODR website was easy to access and use.
In Western Australia, the eCourts Portal allows users to view daily court list, lodge paperwork through the electronic document system (EDS), pay for fines/infringements. In South Australia, Registry Online provides an easy and convenient way for the user to produce Pre-Lodgement Notices and lodge originating claims in the Magistrates Court jurisdiction. In an eTrial in Queensland, all documentary evidence is submitted as scanned images in fully text-searchable PDF documents. These documents are managed and viewed online throughout the trial while all other court processes proceed as usual. In Victoria, from 2 July 2018, all documents for Common Law, Commercial Court and Costs Court matters will be required to be electronically filed using the RedCrest electronic filing platform. An eCourt project is also taking place that aims to upgrade audio-visual technology in all Supreme Court mediation and courtrooms to facilitate electronic trials. Furthermore, the Victorian Government has pledged almost $800,000 to establish an online dispute resolution system for the resolution of small civil claims in VCAT (the equivalent of NCAT). This is intended to serve as a pilot program to gauge the suitability of a broader introduction of ODR in Victoria. ODR is proposed as a solution to neighbourhood tree disputes in Victoria. Uses the CRT in BC as a successful example to model.
In the Federal jurisdiction, eCourtroom is an online courtroom used by Judges and Registrars to assist with the management and hearing of some matters before the Federal Court of Australia or Federal Circuit Court of Australia. eLodgment makes it possible for litigants to electronically lodge documents with the Federal Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court of Australia (General Law). Behind the scenes, Electronic Court File (ECF) is the glue that is holding all of this together. The project to develop this central case management system was implemented using existing Federal Court resources with no additional funding sought. It has been developed using off-the-shelf technology, Microsoft SharePoint, which was customised to suit the Court’s requirements. Development also included making SharePoint interoperable with the Court’s legacy systems such as the case management database. To ensure that the implementation of the new CMS would improve efficiency without disrupting existing Court workflows, extensive user consultations took place.