Electronic Discovery Management System Under the New Normal

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During this uncertain and unchartered new normal of COVID-19 pandemic, the prominent lesson perhaps to businesses has been the importance of ensuring efficiency and continuity in service delivery using remote systems.

Courtrooms are no exception and have been immensely affected since the wake of the pandemic. That, compounded with the need to speed up case management, now judgments and rulings are going remote via online platforms and email. Further restrictions set to curb the spread of the virus means that large group assemblies are prohibited. The impact was immediately felt by the massive scale-down of court activities that made it even more complicated to prepare cases, filing, and servicing of essential court documents.

For any country with a significant case backlog, one solution that can address perennial caseload and delayed justice is technology. Some countries, however, already adopted the use of the Court Case Administration (CCAS), which is a back-end court e-services accessible to only the staff who practice in the court. A good case management system that automates and supports the filing of documents, case management, and presentation, and facilitates archiving could be the silver bullet needed to bring some sanity to the judicial system.

So far, commendable measures have been taken to keep businesses going during the lock down through online email, WhatsApp, Facebook, and other virtual channels like zoom technology that has significantly facilitate remote court proceedings, particularly for matters of urgent attention. Although these are great efforts geared towards improving serving delivery, there are no standard rules or practice for a comprehensive electronic discovery. There is also a restriction on the application of video link bail hearings.

Certainly, ECMS would be a great addition to enhance court processes through reduced paperwork and improved timelines, transparency and efficiency in the delivery of justice. Other advantages include efficient data entry, presentation and retrieval, accessibility of data, as well as timely dispute resolution. This also means that missing files, attorney malpractice, corruption in the courts would be highly minimized as the system only operates at a specified period of business hours.

How does this system work? Countries can borrow a leaf from other jurisdictions that have effectively remained in operation even with social distancing rules. Some countries like England are conducting their hearings using electronic discovery systems. Others are slowly embracing the idea and greatly enjoying the benefits that come with it including uploading pleading and filing documents electronically and accessibility of relevant cases online.

An electronic discovery system would encourage the attorney to be more efficient, transparent and timely. Using registered email addresses, the system can auto-generate service notifications alerting parties involved thus reducing late submissions or rejection. Virtual meetings between a lawyer and client are made possible using online channels so no social distancing can affect the proceedings.

The electronic discovery management system is a great tool. It has allowed efficient case management with all the movement and gathering restrictions still in place. Contract disputes. However, as with most systems, there are challenges associated with new technology. That’s why is important to identify the pitfalls of technology early enough and develop backup measures such as manual filing in case the system fails.

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