NOW THAT THE COURTS HAVE BEEN BURNED DOWN
For years, we have been discussing the application of technology in our Courts. We have discussed e-filing. We have held several sessions on electronic hearing.
After several years of doing this, Corona Virus came and forced us out of our Courts. We then rolled out measures for remote hearings and case scheduling.
7 (seven) months after the Courts were shut down due to the virus, not much progress was made. Eventually, we started returning to our old ways.
Well, we have now been struck a second time. This time, the papers have been burned. This time, we have to start afresh. Yes. Afresh.
This is tragic. If only we had learned and taken proper steps.
Anyway, the deed is done and we move.
I love fresh starts.
Despite the loss, we now have an opportunity to start afresh and do things right. I hope we don’t miss it. Any mistake will have years of repercussion.
So what do we do?
- E-filing: I’m not referring to the stuff they do in court where you file an originating process and spend days waiting for those in the E-filing section to upload. No. I mean comprehensive e-filing. From originating processes to motions and everything in-between. And not by filing a physical copy. But by email or Web upload without the need to call a registrar for assessment.
And I’m not referring to the present ineffective Lagos State High Court website that makes rocket science of what is, in reality, shoukd be easy to build and use.
We should invest heavily in court technology. And there should be more than one storage location for documents. At least two backup storages should be kept.
- Documentary Hearing: I had mentioned this in an article earlier. We cannot get through the situation quickly with court having to sit and hear all motions physically.
How about a system that allows parties to exchange documents and even rulings of Court. This way, we don’t need to check our diaries all the time for convenient dates.
Of course, in view of the need for publicity of court proceedings, all judgments, etc. ought to pe published on the websites or elsewhere. More on this is discussed in my article – Not The Profession I Expected: An interlude.
- Electronic Hearing: I was in Justice Pedro’s Court once when her Lordship stated that all the Courts were taking turns to use the one zoom platform. This was months after we had hailed the innovation that was remote hearing.
Well, I was disappointed and still am. It costs relatively little to set up a business zoom account that allows multiple users to access and use it at once in multiple sessions. So why is the entire Court rotating one?
Well, like I said earlier, the Court has to do more than just lip service. It has to invest in technology genuinely if any progress is to be made.
- Electronic Recording of proceedings: a while ago, I read a book by Dele Ogun. It describe a period when Fidelis Oditah, QC, SAN was just called to the Bar. At that time, Arbitration proceedings used electronic transcribers that were effective and made available transcripts immediately after each session with little need for any correction.
Mr. Oditah was called to Bar in 1985. Today, 35 years after, our Courts are still writing manually and advocates have to talk with several pauses because “your Lordship is writing”.
I recently had to use an electronic transcription software. Despite the accent of the speaker, it was fairly easy to transcribe and very little correction had to be made. The software was almost free.
Anyway, I said it earlier, only a genuine interest in applying technology and delivering quick and effective justice can help us.
Otherwise, we all have several years of suffering ahead of us.
This list is not exhaustive. But I think applying these will go a long way.
My apologies if any part of this write-up seems harsh. It is not intended. It is merely an expression of my frustration. I apologise again.
Fernandez Marcus-Obiene ( theFernist #LifeUnderConstruction), practice in Lagos Nigeria.