Law Foundation Technology Services Pty Ltd,
135 Wickham Tce, Brisbane 4000 Australia
*This paper has been reduced for the WWW7; a full version is at http://www.ozemail.com.au/~astan/cyber_courts.htm1. Introduction
"I do not underestimate the power of the legal system to work slowly." 
The business world has indeed left the legal world behind when it comes to using technology. Often, the reason businesses have moved to using technology is that it is more cost effective to share and store information digitally. Clients will expect their lawyers, and the courts, to do the same.
The Internet now provides a wide range of legal information and the benefits of information being provided in this way is that it can be kept up-to-date as the law changes. Not only can the Internet assist in legal research, but it can also assist in court processes generally, that is, in trial preparation and in the courtroom throughout the hearing. The reason courts should embrace technology lies in constantly increasing caseloads, complexity of cases, jurisdiction, resource constraints, pressure to improve access to justice, expectations of improvement in performance and pressure to improve efficiency and effectiveness in court administration and the delivery of justice.
Often, these problems are compounded because there is no corresponding increase in the number of judges or staff  to counteract the problems . Data should be entered only once into a system, and this accords with the notion of integrated justice .
The areas to be considered in addressing how courts should take these problems are:
Electronic appeals and electronic filing Legal research Medium neutral citations
Inside the courtroom Virtual courtrooms Legislative changes
Public examination of court information Privacy Free access
2. Electronic filing and electronic appeal books
Electronic filing is directly related to the issue of electronic appeal books: a Notice of Appeal is included in an appeal book, so it is obviously beneficial to obtain the Notice of Appeal, in the first instance, in electronic format.
2.1. Electronic filing
"Imagine a lawyer working late at night putting the finishing touches on a set of pleadings. A few more clicks of the mouse and the document is on file with the court." 
As David J. Egar (Court Administrator Snake River Basin Adjudication District Court Twin Falls where an efiling project was carried out) has pointed out, the proliferation of computers, local area networks (LANS), and electronic mail technologies which presently exist within courts presents a unique opportunity embrace efiling . Efiling can reduce costs spent on paper, town agent's fees and lodging clerk fees, and it can reduce duplication of data and increase accuracy in data record keeping. In addition, documents can be filed 24 hours a day.
An efiling pilot is being conducted over the Queensland Law Foundation Technology Services Pty Ltd's THEMIS network, which is a secure extranet for legal practitioners. Legal Aid Queensland completes the Notice of Appeal, electronically forwards it to the Court. The information is then imported directly in the Court's case management system. One of the main benefits of this pilot project is that information already contained within Legal Aid's database can be sent to the Court, thereby reducing duplication and the scope for error. It is hoped that this will go some way towards providing integrated justice.
Efiling has already been trialled in the United States, for example, in Ohio, where the District Court went "live" on 2 January 1996 with an efiling project to cope with its overwhelming maritime asbestos caseload , and in Maricopa County (Phoenix, Arizona), where court forms can be downloaded from an electronic bulletin board , completed, and filed electronically . Efiling is also being trialled in the Maryland Circuit Court  and similar procedures are underway federally .
In Australia, the Victorian Magistrates Court permits efiling of documents  using what is known as the "Court's EDI service" which allows law firms to issue legal process and file documents electronically at any court in Victoria, from their office. The South Australian Supreme Court is permitting limited electronic access in a pilot project  and the High Court at one time considered electronic filing over the Internet .
One of the problems with utilising efiling is that often forms are required to be signed personally by the party who is filing the document . If efiling is be implemented as common practice, the Legislature, or the Court, would be required to amend rules governing procedure. One way to deal with this may be the use of digital signatures.
This issue has already been considered by some United States jurisdictions, for example, in Utah . California followed Utah's lead last year by passing similar statutes and the American Bar Association has proposed a draft model for national legislation based on Utah's example. Other jurisdictions such as Canadian provinces, and Chile, are also setting up digital signature infrastructures . Indeed, the laws in California and Utah provide the legal framework to make digital signatures as binding as pen on paper which may be considered a necessary step for widespread employment of electronic commerce and to create a system for ensuring the integrity of digital signatures. Billing procedures may be affected, for example, filing fees could be payable at the time of electronic lodgment either by deducting the appropriate fee from a credit account, or even something akin to an electronic funds transfer ("EFT").
Standards Australia has formed a sub-committee to look specifically at public key authentication framework (which includes digital signatures). A report published last year, The Strategies for the Implementation of a Public Key Authentication Framework (PKAF) in Australia (SAA MPA 75) is being used as the framework to develop standards being developed by sub-committee. In July 1997 the Commonwealth Attorney General announced the establishment of an expert group, the Electronic Commerce Expert Group (ECEG)  to "identify and, where necessary, propose remedies to any legal impediments to the adoption of electronic commerce". One of the challenges is digital signatures.
There are those who argue against the implementation of efiling, saying that "electronic documents are easily changed", however, with digital signatures, legal documents can actually be made more secure than hard copy as the document is encrypted or "locked" and if it changes in any way, it cannot be unlocked. Another argument against efiling is that "hackers can submit documents for filing", however, in the present system, it is difficult to check the authenticity of the signature on a hard copy. A further argument is that "unrepresented litigants and those with limited financial resources cannot file documents electronically", however, these litigants can still file documents in hard copy and these can be scanned into the system .
2.2. Electronic appeal books
The Council of Chief Justice (CCJ) (Australia and New Zealand) has embarked on a project to investigate the use of electronic appeal books, the benefits of which have been recognised by Chief Justice Brennan . The Queensland Law Foundation Technology Services Pty Ltd (QLFTS) has been appointed as consultant to advise the CCJ on the implementation of electronic appeal books.
In its Project Plan , the consultant has emphasis that it will focuss on a cost benefit analysis, standards, the "Virtual Appeal Book" and the facilitation of pilot initiatives, with the Final Report due in early 1998. The issue of standards is very important especially if information is to be created in, collected in, and exchanged between courts (see Standards below).
Having investigated several jurisdictions already, the consultant has realised that the contents of the appeal book vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Therefore, it is not intended that the Virtual Appeal Book simply be an electronic replacement for the existing hard copy appeal books, rather the consultant will place in the electronic appeal book those items which a judge really uses on the bench. It is intended that the "Appeal Book" be a "toolkit" for judges to use, so those items traditionally placed in the appeal book, such as the judgment below, the transcript of the hearing below, relevant exhibits, the notice of appeal and so on will be included in the appeal book, but also the outlines of argument, relevant caselaw and legislation. It is intended that the Virtual Appeal Book be prepared using a Web-browser interface, making it easy to use by judges and practitioners.
The consultant is facilitating pilot initiatives such as an electronic filing initiative between the Court of Appeal and Legal Aid Queensland and the use of an electronic appeal book in the Supreme Court of Western Australia.
The use of electronic appeal books was trialled in the Alberta Court of Appeal from 1994 with the result that the EDR (Electronic Document Reading) Committee recommended to the court that electronic appeal books be used for all appeals . Correspondence with the Registrar of the Alberta Court of Appeal has revealed that those parties wishing to use electronic appeal books are doing so and that a committee will soon be struck to investigate the total use of electronic appeal books. At present the Court requires the electronic appeal books to be filed in SmarText which is a proprietary software and has both a building and a reading component in it. Although the software is no longer supported, the Court has not moved away from it because the judiciary likes it so much and because there is likely to soon be an upgrade in software for the judiciary. All appeal books are placed on the local area network which is accessible by the judiciary from their chambers, the courtroom or their home. The pilot has demonstrated the need to check the appeal books when they are filed with the court to ensure that they comply with the Court's guidelines.
3. Medium neutral citations
Obviously, if there is going to be a shift towards the use of electronic materials in courts, particularly if the Internet is to be used as a medium, standards need to be developed to ensure that data is captured consistently, not only within a particular court, but also across jurisdictions .
Use of medium neutral citations means that documents can be viewed using any medium, for example, a word processor, on the Internet or even using hard copy. Further, such citations mean that authorities can be cited without relying on publishers.
When text is transported from one medium to another, page numbers change or are actually lost. One way to ensure this can be done is to use paragraph numbering instead of page numbering. The High Court's first judgments which were delivered in 1998 contain paragraph numbering and the judgments can be found at the High Court's Website .
In the United States, the American Bar Association's Special Committee on Citation Issues submitted, in May 1996, a report to the Board of Governors and House of Delegates of the ABA which recommended that all jurisdictions adopt a system for citation to case reports which would be equally effective for printed case reports and for case reports electronically published on computer discs or network services . Notwithstanding some strong opposition to the recommendation from the judiciary and from the publishing houses, particularly the West Publishing Company which has a monopoly over the publishing of court reports, the House of Delegates adopted the Special Committee's Resolution in August 1996 . Since then, some courts, such as the Montana Supreme Court , have adopted the medium neutral citation format, however, the ABA's recommendation has not been widely implemented .
4. Legal research material for the judiciary
Professor Bing in Greenleaf, Mowbray and Lewis' Australasian Computerised Legal Information Handbook said:
"... textual objects surround the lawyer like a vast and lettered landscape. When solving a legal problem, the lawyer like some sort of human helicopter lands somewhere in this landscape, examines the textual surroundings, digging for clues in the ground, examining details of tangled growths, until taking off for a new and promising state. The lawyer is like a treasure hunter in the wilderness of legal sources ... the lawyer is dependent upon some sort of navigation instruments and treasure maps. The most efficient retrieval tool available is the computerized legal information services. A lawyer not familiar with such tools may not be considered illiterate today, but he certainly will be severely handicapped tomorrow." 
If the judiciary has quick and reliable electronic access to legal research materials in the courtroom or in chambers, then arguably, less time needs to be spent in chambers conducting paper-based research. The Internet is an extremely useful tool for judicial research as it contains a wealth of on-line legal research material , and some judges already use the Internet for legal research purposes . The AustLII site  provides a well-indexed site with links to other legal research sites throughout the world . Additionally, publishers such as Butterworths , have started making their subscription services available over the Internet and some authors already publish directly to the Internet. Library services such as the Cornell Law Library provide excellent electronic library facilities .
Advantages of the Internet are that the information is generally current and up-to-date, it is easily accessible and the information is freely available. One disadvantage is that the information is not secure and downloading information can be slow depending on phone line traffic. However, the main concern is that cases and legislation provided over the Internet are not "authorised", that is, only the authorised reports (such as the Commonwealth Law Reports) can be relied upon in Court as authority, although this may be overcome by the adoption of medium neutral citations. There is also a concern that reports published to the Internet can be sabotaged, although this can be overcome by ensuring a duplicate copy of a Court's database and that the Internet server is regularly updated, via a one-way modem link, from the duplicate database.
There is also a general mistrust of the Internet and the perception that material on the Internet can be sabotaged. One remedy may be to store a replica of the database which is kept secure and which updates the Web server at regular intervals. However, until this dilemma has been resolved by the legislature, information obtained from the Internet may be used as reference material only.Recently, Australia's first accredited and totally electronic law journal was launched: National Law Review .
5. Inside the CourtroomThe use of technology within the courtroom has been shown to reduce hearing time significantly in several high profile cases such as the Woods Royal Commission, the Estate Mortgage case, the Gretley Coal Mine disaster and the Rothwells trial. Many traditional litigation support initiatives have focussed upon the gathering, classification, storage and retrieval of information for one party involved in litigation. The new paradigm is to move towards collaborative litigation support systems such as those used in the Woods Royal Commission and the Gretley Coal Mine Disaster Investigation. These systems were actually initiated by the courts themselves, rather than by the parties, and all parties to the litigation were provided with access to the system both from within and external to the courtroom.
Such litigation support systems enable delivery through a secure intranet which can be constantly and dynamically updated throughout the proceedings. There is real integration of documents tendered as evidence, court filed documents, real time transcript (RTT) and legal authorities and the system can be delivered with powerful search engine facilities. The system can be available from within and external to the courtroom.
In the Estate Mortgage case the developers of the system were keen to ensure that it remained an open system:
"The $600,000 courtroom set-up has more than 50 terminals including Windows '95, Windows 3.1, Unix and Macintosh with a simple network look intranet in six dedicated servers with more than 75 gigabytes hard disk capacity." .
In addition, the database was accessible through the Estate Mortgage Home Page using Netscape Navigator or Microsoft's Internet Explorer which made the information easily accessible to parties and the bench:
"Lawyers don't want to spend forever learning how to run a whole lot of programs. What they want is easy, open access. What they want is to be able to call up information at a simple click." Chris Priestley .
An agreed courtbook of some 30,000 documents, which was fully text-searchable, could be accessed from the in-court system. As more documents were added, these would be indexed and added to the search retrieval engine.
Real-time transcript was used which could be monitored as evidence the evidence was taken and all the documents were accessible via the intranet. Unlike traditional transcript, real-time transcript allows transcript to be viewed on the screen as the trial proceeds. At the end of each day, the transcript can be added into the Court's database and indexed so it is fully text searchable. Judges especially like real-time transcript as personal notes can be made against the transcript as the matter proceeds. These notes can be collected at the end of the day and parts of the transcript can be easily found.
The Internet can be used as a medium for making available transcript to the parties and any other interested person; in fact, High Court transcripts are already available on the Internet at the AustLII site .6. Virtual courtrooms
A virtual courtroom is one which need not exist anywhere but electronically. Using internet technology, a courtroom can be configured without requiring parties to spend a fortune on additional hardware and software. In the United States, Courtroom 21, "The Courtroom of the 21st Century Today," is located at the College of William & Mary Law School and is arguably the world's most technologically advanced trial and appellate courtroom .
The Singapore Supreme Court has successfully set up a virtual courtroom known as "The Technology Court" , which has a local area network (LAN) with an Internet connection and which allows the use of imaging, multimedia and video conferencing. It also has a Litigation Support System for Presentation (LSSP), a Computer Based Recording Transcription System (CBRT), a sophisticated audio visual system (AVS) which allows various types of audio and video information to be presented with ease and a video conferencing to allow foreign witnesses to give evidence in any proceedings. The Supreme Court Infokiosk System (SCIS) which has touch sensitive screen and allows a user to obtain information on hearing schedules, the location of counter services in the Supreme Court and to call up a multimedia floor directory of the Supreme Court complex.
Essentially, the feature of a virtual courtroom is that a decision can be made without ever having to set foot inside a courtroom .
7. Legislative changes
It is recognised that legislation may require amendment so that (a) information in digital form can be tendered in evidence and (b) that documents can be "signed" electronically.
Another point to be considered by the Legislature is the use of electronic versions of judgments and legislation. These are not authorised and many carry a warning upon them that they are not authorised and should not be relied upon in court. Legislation may be required to enable electronic versions of judgments and legislation to be relied upon in court, an obvious concern being the security and integrity of these documents.
8. The public being able to examine and prepare court documents electronically
Much of the information which is searched on paper and over the counter has already been captured electronically. For example, the registry staff of the Court of Appeal (Qld) spends much of its time answering queries in relation to the status of appeals. The Court of Appeal database could be made publicly available to the public at the Supreme Court's Web-site .
In Phoenix Arizona, QuickCourt "kiosks" have been set up. These are designed to answer questions from an array of legal topics (such as divorce, landlord and tenant rights, enforcement of judgments, alternative dispute resolution and small claims) . If, for example, "divorce" is selected, the ATM-like machine asks the user questions and the user simply types in the answers. Once all questions have been answered, a set of documents is printed out and a set of instructions is given indicating what must be done with the documents. For example, some have to be notarised, some copied, some served and some lodged with the court . Similar "kiosks" have been developed in the UK  and in Singapore .
The right of the public to obtain court information conflicts with the right of individuals to maintain and protect their privacy. In Australia, the right of the public to obtain information held by government bodies is given by the Freedom of Information legislation , although there are exemptions available for documents which contain personal information about a person . There is little common law governing privacy issues in Australia. In the United States, the US Supreme Court has recognised a general common law right to inspect and copy public documents and records of the judiciary .
In May 1996 AustLII  was embroiled in a dispute where it was believed that it had committed invasions of privacy by the publication of decisions of the Family Court at its Web-site. The publication of these decisions was suspended until the issue had been resolved. On 19 June 1996 the Commonwealth Attorney-General and Minister for Justice made a News Release which pointed out that Family Court decisions which are published on the database have been available for many years in commercial law reports and said that he was satisfied that the Department, AustLII, the Law Foundation of New South Wales and the Family Court had acted appropriately in providing selected and edited Family Court decisions through the electronic services. He said that the publication of such decisions did not breach any prohibition on publication or privacy legislation.
AustLII's conviction is that it must be the responsibility of the public bodies providing data containing personal information to make decisions concerning the appropriate balance between privacy interests and the public interest in publication, and that AustLII cannot edit or censor such data. Nor does AustLII believe it has a responsibility to seek inappropriate use of the database.
If court information is being made publicly available over the Internet, then it may be feasible to ensure the server is fitted with "robot exclusion" software. WWW Robots (also called wanderers or spiders) are programs that traverse many pages in the World Wide Web by recursively retrieving linked pages. A Robot Excluder can tell a robot which areas of the server cannot be accessed .
10. Free access
There is a view that judgments and legislation should be freely available ; AustLII being one such organisation holding that view. AustLII tells prospective information providers that it is "willing to do all the hard work to provide this information free to the public, if only you will licence it to us/release it into the public domain."  This is consistent with the view that court systems should not set up public or private monopolies over their information resources .
AustLII's policy is that the philosophy "access to justice" requires that access to "public legal information" should be maximised and believes that public authorities  should provide public legal information in accordance with certain criteria .
As the President of the Court of Appeal (Qld) has noted , free electronic access to judgments would be consistent with an appropriately open and accountable judicial system and the Court would benefit if such a resource was used by legal practitioners, and unrepresented litigants, to improve the quality of arguments presented to the Court; further, the public would benefit if the substantial costs associated with the use of existing on-line legal databases or CD-ROM material could be avoided.
There are a variety of ways in which the Internet can be used to decrease the burdens which courts today are facing. In particular, the Internet can be used at all stages of the court proceeding, from filing the originating or appellate proceeding, to final determination.
The move towards the use of technology, and the Internet, within courts will, no doubt, be a gradual one, however, it is one which courts should consider incorporating into their strategic plans. In addition, it is important that representatives from courts throughout Australia meet regularly with a view to comparing systems and maintaining consistency when appropriate.
Courts should work in conjunction with justice organisations with a view to providing an integrated system of justice. Technology can assist this by ensuring data is entered only once and exchanged electronically.
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VitaeAllison Stanfield was seconded, in October 1997, to the Queensland Law Foundation Technology Services Pty Ltd (QLFTS) from the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Queensland, where she is the Senior Deputy Registrar (Appeals). Allison is a qualified solicitor with 7 years' experience in the legal field, which includes having worked in London, with Corrs Chambers Westgarth and within the Court of Appeal. Whilst at the Court of Appeal, in addition to performing her duties as Senior Deputy Registrar, Allison was actively involved in the enhancement and further development of the Court's case management system, and in the general management of the Court of Appeal's information technology systems. Allison also gave IT advice to the Court's President, Justice Tony Fitzgerald.
Allison holds Bachelor and Master degrees in Law from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and is currently undertaking a Master of Information Technology which will focus on Courts and Technology and on the Virtual Legal Office. Allison has taught for many years within QUT's law faculty and has published widely in the legal field. More recently, however, Allison has confined her writing to the application of technology to legal procedures, particularly to courts.
During 1997, Allison co-ordinated an electronic filing initiative between the Court of Appeal and the Legal Aid Office (Qld). The initiative was supported and funded by QLFTS and was provided over the THEMIS service. The pilot has been a successful proof of concept.
As a member of an IT sub-committee of a Working Party set up to investigate Electronic Appeal Books on behalf of the Council of Chief Justices (CCJ), Allison has had input into the vision for the use of IT within Courts. QLFTS made a successful bid for a consultancy to the CCJ, and in her role with QLFTS, Allison is working closely on the CCJ project.
In recognition of her skills, Allison has recently been asked to advise the Australian Law Reform Commission on the use of information technology within courts.