COVID-19 is catapulting the prison justice system to undertake know-how and measures that can pace up trials and presumably clear the looming backlog that the pandemic has created.

Household regulation attorneys pioneered digital trials and have been working them for years. They  embraced the time-saving know-how for placing completely different causes — particularly parenthood.

And the winners are their shoppers who’re saving money and time by residing within the laptop age.

“We aren’t all complicit in preserving a 1970s system,” mentioned household regulation lawyer Martha McCarthy. “I’ve been screaming from the rooftops — we run absolutely digital trials.”

Her regulation companion, Heather Hansen, is among the paperless, digital trial pioneers.

At digital trials, paperwork are seen on laptop computer screens or viewing screens.

Banker packing containers of paperwork and statements and case regulation are saved on tiny USB keys, saved within the lawyer’s pockets.

The decide’s desk is not clogged with a dozen two- or three-inch thick authorized “briefs,” that she or he should wade by way of. One click on and the doc is earlier than the court docket’s eyes.

Witnesses not waste time flipping by way of pages of transcripts, because the lawyer zeroes in on the best passage.

Household regulation arbitrator and mediator conferences are additionally held in teleconferences, in tight 30-minute time home windows, as an alternative of getting herds of attorneys ready, generally for hours, for his or her five-minute chat with the decide and opposing counsel.


Heather Hansen is a household regulation lawyer who has blazed a path by going paperless. SUPPLIED PHOTO

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HEATHER HANSEN

Keep in mind, attorneys are paid a whole bunch of {dollars} an hour, so the cost-saving is substantial for shoppers. Extra circumstances are heard and the courtroom is not a loud mess of paper shuffling and box-hauling as attorneys dig by way of the most important misnomer ever written — authorized briefs.

Hansen, who began practising in 2007, started a paperless observe — storing all paperwork on USBs, as an alternative of hauling banker’s packing containers to and from her workplace to court docket — a 12 months after she gave start to her son in 2011.

“It was only a product of not having sufficient time between parenthood and the need to thrive in my profession,” mentioned the mom of two, aged eight and 7.

“The prison courts are being thrust  into digital age, with distant hearings and Zoom teleconferences right this moment due to COVID,” mentioned Hansen. “I discover it humorous that now everyone seems to be being thrust into this due to the pandemic.

“It was an enormous change in how I lawyered. I used to be placing all paperwork on my ipad,” she added.

Hansen has already  executed 5 Superior Courtroom household trials “utterly electronically” — beginning in September and October 2014.

At first, everyone seems to be anxious and nervous for 25 minutes, then, she mentioned, “everyone seems to be loving the effectivity and the quiet, targeted environment,” mentioned Hansen.

“Necessity is the mom of invention and this pandemic has jump-started a technological revolution within the (prison) courts that can save time, cash and cut back the backlog,” mentioned defence lawyer Daniel Brown, vice-president of the Prison Legal professionals’ Affiliation. “You don’t need to do issues the best way we did issues 100 years in the past. All the things is on paper and it’s wasteful.”

Brown mentioned there have been “vital positives popping out of  this pandemic.

“We’re properly on our technique to eliminating pointless court docket appearances for set dates, advances in offering disclosures electronically,” mentioned Brown.

Disclosure is the compilation of proof gathered by investigators and given to Crown and defence attorneys.

These technological advances will cut back the variety of wasteful court docket appearances and speed up the time to trial and save taxpayers cash, mentioned Brown.

spazzano@postmedia.com

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