How is remote justice working in the time of COVID-19?

A Trans-Tasman research team is collecting the stories of people who have participated in legal hearings remotely, to understand the impact of the civil justice system going online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remote Justice Stories is a collaboration between researchers at the Australian Centre for Justice Innovation (ACJI) at Monash University, and the University of Otago’s Legal Issues Centre, led by the respective directors of the two centres, Associate Professor Genevieve Grant and Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin. The project aims to collect and publish the stories of litigants, lawyers and judicial staff via a new website, Remote Justice Stories.

COVID-19 changed the way the civil justice system works almost overnight. The Australian and New Zealand justice systems had previously held fast to their traditional in-person hearings and trials, taking a slow and cautious approach to online processes such as video-conference hearings and e-trials. The COVID-19 pandemic changed this dramatically. Across Australia and New Zealand, courts and tribunals rushed to move their operations online, minimise in-person proceedings and have since conducted a range of hearings using phone and video conferencing.

The research team hopes to shed light on how this new and sudden remote justice is working, with a view to informing both pandemic practice and the continuation of online hearings in future post-pandemic times.

“The perspectives of people who have experienced this sudden change in our justice system are very important and could be invaluable as we emerge in the post-pandemic era. We would welcome stories from anyone involved–such as clients, lawyers, and judicial officers. We hope the research will help the courts, policy-makers, practitioners and users of legal services,” said Associate Professor Grant.

“Whether it’s a short observation, an expression of frustration or humour, or a detailed and detached analysis, we would like to hear it. Together the stories will provide a rich user picture that can aid future development and form a record of civil justice in an extraordinary time,” added Dr Toy-Cronin.

The challenges of delivering justice remotely during a pandemic involve many questions, including what attributes of cases make them suitable or unsuitable for remote hearing, which court users, if any, are advantaged or disadvantaged by the new arrangements, and how does remote evidence differ from live evidence?

The research aims to:

  • Explore the experiences of participants in remote hearings and civil litigation.
  • Identify barriers to and facilitators of effective remote hearings and civil litigation.
  • Investigate changes in the roles and responsibilities of participants in civil litigation in view of the remote delivery of justice.
  • Explore how remote hearings and civil litigation compare to traditional face-to-face approaches to civil litigation.

People can contribute their story simply by going to the Remote Justice Stories website and contributing via an online survey.

Further contact details:

Australia

Assoc Prof Genevieve Grant, Director, Australian Centre for Justice Innovation, genevieve.grant@monash.edu, Tel +613 9905 3341

New Zealand

Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, Director, University of Otago Legal Issues Centre, bridgette.toy-cronin@otago.ac.nz, Tel:(+64) 21 279 0488