By Janet Pang
As tens of thousands of corporate lawyers and civil servants work from home while the Covid-19 epidemic hits Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Judiciary is a rare branch of government which has not exploited technological advances, with a significant backlog of cases and applications piling up.
File photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Barristers and solicitors have been sitting around wondering when they will have to go to court and which case they should prepare for, whilst anxiously waiting for announcements by the Judiciary. Without compromising the rule of law, access to justice or fairness, the legal sector particularly the Judiciary should think further about their arrangements for combating the coronavirus.
The need for the Judiciarys own epidemic plan and strategy
Many have called for the Judiciary to provide greater transparency in their policies, decisions and details regarding the recent closure of courts. What were the factors and criteria to be considered in imposing court closure? Was the Judiciary influenced by the Administrations decision to impose work from home measures, or the rapid rise of the number of confirmed coronavirus cases? We do not know.
The Bar Association and the Law Society have both expressed concern about the delay in announcement and openness of the court arrangements. With the newest lengthy announcement made by the Judiciary on possible court resumption starting from March 2, it is still not very clear what the arrangements will be.
Perhaps the underlying issue of insufficient transparency stems from the lack of guidelines and strategies for epidemic emergency planning by the Judiciary. In contrast, some US courts came up with contingency plans for court operation during epidemics a decade ago, after the SARS and avian flu outbreaks.
In balancing the likely restriction of public access during a pandemic with the need for open justice, the epidemic preparedness plan would consider employing technology such as televised court proceedings, public access to computerised information systems, and simultaneous court transcription to provide participants and the public with access to court proceedings.
Although not seen in the Hong Kong context yet, the court should also be prepared for cases related to habeas corpus and quarantine orders during a time of epidemic. The court must also have basic ideas as to the conditions warranting court closure instead of simply following the practice of the administration, especially as the administrations decision to resume daily office operation may be motivated by political considerations.
It is crucial for the Judiciary to come up with its own plans and guidelines to ensure perception of independence. A proper policy in place will also provide greater certainty to court operations during times of stress, as the practices in the past few weeks have undermined certainty of the legal system, an important pillar of the rule of law.
E-filing and limited services
One of the most troubling issues is that numerous court applications cannot be filed when the Registry is closed. Many lawyers have missed the opportunities to make important applications for their clients, such as applying for default judgment when the other side does not respond to a legal suit.
Some of them may also risk missing a deadline for filing applications, as the Court Registry has been closed for almost a month. Why did the Judiciary not opt to provide limited service of its Registry to ensure minimal and necessary operation of the justice system?
A makeshift measure could be that the Court Registry is to open with limited service. Lawyers and applicants can still file their applications or take out summons by depositing physical copies of documents at the Court Registry. They can email the court the same.
This ad hoc measure would not violate the existing rules which require physical filing with the Registry but judicial staffers and judges can make reference to the electronic copies so as to reduce the risk of spreading disease through physical contact. There is perhaps no perfect solution during a time of epidemic but the courts need to think further and come up with more flexible ways to deal with the situation.
Hong Kongs long-term competitor, Singapore, implemented an e-filing system as early as the early 2000s, whilst Hong Kong only began thinking of such in 2003. The use of technology by the Hong Kong Judiciary is lagging tremendously.
As the Court Proceedings (Electronic Technology) Bill is on its way, the judiciary and the legal profession must take every opportunity to ensure that they can take the advantage of technological advances in accordance with principles of the rule of law when the bill is dealt with at the legislature.
Dealing with backlogs
It is expected that the courts will be swarmed with the backlog of applications and cases accumulated during court closure. It is understood the courts will adopt a staggered approach when they reopen, so that cases first taken out will be first dealt with. Yet, we do not know how long closure will last.
File photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.
We could also expect long queues outside the courts on the first few days after reopening, when legal clerks rush to lodge application documents. This would ironically defeat the purpose of court closure, to control the flow of people. The Judiciary must devise proper arrangements to deal with the expected influx of people making court applications, such as arranging time slots for filing etc.
So far, it has expressed its intention to arrange for court registries be opened in batches but the details arent released yet. Our previous suggestion that the court should consider providing limited service during closure to prevent a future influx would solve this problem.
It may be unfortunate that the Hong Kong Judiciary has faced an unprecedented workload due to the anti-Extradition Bill protests, followed by the coronavirus outbreak.
Yet, some of the consequences were avoidable. The forced closure of the courts during Covid-19 has revealed how archaic the existing legal system is, creating numerous hurdles where court operations could benefit from technology. The Judiciary should take this opportunity to consider long-term changes that would improve the administration of justice and minimise disruption to court operation in epidemics.
Janet Pang is a solicitor in Hong Kong and a member of Civic Party.
Read the original here:
- Technology Will Not Save Us - The New York Times - May 2nd, 2020
- Amid a new technology normal, gaps and gratitude for the devices that sustain us - Citizen Times - May 2nd, 2020
- COVID-19 and Technology: Commonly Used Terms - EFF - May 2nd, 2020
- Salon turns to dry fog technology to kill coronavirus ahead of reopening - FOX 31 Denver - May 2nd, 2020
- A brief history of video and technology in baseball, and how it helped teams steal signs - The Boston Globe - May 2nd, 2020
- How South Korea has used tech to successfully contain COVID-19 - Business Insider - Business Insider - May 2nd, 2020
- AI proven to be invaluable technology during pandemic - Khaleej Times - May 2nd, 2020
- The Use Of Technology And Future Of Work Has Changed Because Of COVID-19 - caribbeannationalweekly.com - May 2nd, 2020
- COVID-19 Impact on the Airport Operations Market by Technology and Region - Global Forecast to 2025 - ResearchAndMarkets.com - Yahoo Finance - May 2nd, 2020
- Apple must expand its COVID tracing technology into large scale testing - AppleInsider - May 2nd, 2020
- A 'pandemic drone' and other technology could help limit the spread of coronavirus and ease restrictions sooner, but at what cost? - ABC News - May 2nd, 2020
- Highlights from Hegeman: Getting rural Missouri the technology it needs - The Maryville Forum - May 2nd, 2020
- 15-year-olds life mission preserved through foundation providing technology to children in need - NJ.com - May 2nd, 2020
- The US already has the technology to test millions of people a day - MIT Technology Review - May 2nd, 2020
- Electric Car BYD Han To Have More Range With New Battery Technology - Fossbytes - May 2nd, 2020
- The neuroscience of loneliness and how technology is helping us - The Next Web - May 2nd, 2020
- Stimulus checks and other coronavirus relief hindered by dated technology and rocky government rollout - SF Gate - April 23rd, 2020
- Australias Fire Season Ends, and Researchers Look to the Next One - The New York Times - April 23rd, 2020
- US lawmaker says any COVID-19 contact tracing technology should be voluntary and limited - Gadgets Now - April 23rd, 2020
- Summerside convention brings new technology to the field - The Guardian - April 23rd, 2020
- 'Alexa turn on the lights;' how to add smart technology to your home - SW News Media - April 18th, 2020
- How Las Cruces Public Schools is providing technology to 1 in 5 students who need it - KVIA El Paso - April 18th, 2020
- China's strategy to reorient US tech companies is exposed what next? | TheHill - The Hill - April 18th, 2020
- How China used technology to combat COVID-19 and tighten its grip on citizens - Amnesty International - April 18th, 2020
- The importance of technology in banking during a crisis | VOX, CEPR Policy Portal - voxeu.org - April 18th, 2020
- Lux Communities leaning on technology amidst coronavirus pandemic - INFORUM - April 18th, 2020
- Is COVID-19 the push businesses need to fast-track technology adoption? - ZDNet - April 18th, 2020
- Doctor calls technology 'instrumental' in tracking the spread of COVID-19 - WBAY - April 18th, 2020
- The neuroscience of loneliness and how technology is helping us - The Conversation UK - April 18th, 2020
- Gov. Evers Signs Bill Expanding Access to Standing Technology - WEAU - April 18th, 2020
- QQQX: Technology And 'High Yield' To Beat The Markets After We Beat COVID-19 - Seeking Alpha - April 18th, 2020
- I Think It Could Be A Game Changer | Frederick Company Develops Technology To Disinfect N95 Masks - CBS Baltimore - April 18th, 2020
- Mayor of London backed tech start-up used to make 'deep fakes' - Telegraph.co.uk - April 18th, 2020
- The expansion of mass surveillance to stop coronavirus should worry us all - The Guardian - April 18th, 2020
- While We've Been in Lockdown, Solar Cell Technology Has Smashed Three Big Records - ScienceAlert - April 18th, 2020
- How new technology in Data Science is impacting the life of Data Scientists - YourStory - April 18th, 2020
- Four technologies Japan and the US should team on to counter China - C4ISRNet - April 18th, 2020
- Activist investor Starboard, which has track record of big returns in tech, finds its next target - CNBC - April 18th, 2020
- Sheriff Robert L. Langley, Jr. Reports License Plate Reader Technology Crucial to Discovery of Two Vehicles Reported Stolen - HamletHub - April 18th, 2020
- Coronavirus Contact Tracing: Apple and Google Team Up to Enable Virus Tracking - The New York Times - April 18th, 2020
- 'We are all interconnected': Coronavirus is reshaping our relationship with technology - Sydney Morning Herald - April 18th, 2020
- Nation-building through engineering and technology education - The Star Online - April 18th, 2020
- How you and your technology can help fight Covid-19 - The Irish Times - April 18th, 2020
- InteliCare seeks to bring its AI-based aged care monitoring technology to the ASX - Small Caps - April 18th, 2020
- Artificial Intelligence and the environmental crisis: 'Can technology really save the world?', asks Tayside expert - The Courier - April 18th, 2020
- More than 20,000 computers loaned to students to learn from home - Business in Vancouver - April 18th, 2020
- Have we allowed technology to become another family member? - Daily Monitor - April 18th, 2020
- Technology - Wikipedia - April 11th, 2020
- Tech 24 - Hacking the Covid-19 crisis: The role of technology - FRANCE 24 - April 11th, 2020
- National Geographic's Technology Comes to TC Williams - The Zebra - April 11th, 2020
- Religious leaders are using technology to connect with congregations during Holy Week - Long Beach Post - April 11th, 2020
- How a 5G Coronavirus Conspiracy Theory Fueled Arson and Harassment in Britain - The New York Times - April 11th, 2020
- Using technology to celebrate the holiday | Pandemic 2020 - Barre Montpelier Times Argus - April 11th, 2020
- The technology Utah is using to track the coronavirus - ABC 4 - April 11th, 2020
- Technology-Enabled Mission Command: Keeping up with the (John Paul) Joneses - War on the Rocks - April 11th, 2020
- Realtors Use Technology To Connect With Clients Amid COVID-19 - KVRR - April 11th, 2020
- David Basulto Discusses Archdaily, Technology and Design Thinking in Inspiring Design Podcast - ArchDaily - April 11th, 2020
- Specialization, technology and culture erode traditions, discourage participation - The Herald Bulletin - April 11th, 2020
- Coronavirus: How technology and apps could allow the UK to leave lockdown but impose new restrictions of their own - The Independent - April 11th, 2020
- Coronavirus could finally unleash innovative promise of 21st century technology - Washington Examiner - April 11th, 2020
- Rabbis allowing Zoom, technology on Passover during quarantine - MyNorthwest.com - April 11th, 2020
- Mixed Reality Technologies To Reshape The Workplace Of The Next Decade - Forbes - April 11th, 2020
- How Technology Has Already Begun Using Your Biometric Data - And Why it's Trustworthy - Analytics Insight - April 11th, 2020
- Rhode Island's 1950s Technology is Slowing Processing and Payment of Unemployment Claims - GoLocalProv - April 11th, 2020
- Department of Energy Announces $38 Million to Support Hydrokinetic Turbine Technology Development - Energy.gov - April 11th, 2020
- Harvard University Information Technology helps shift to online - Harvard Gazette - April 11th, 2020
- Global Terminates MOU with World Innovation Technologies Other OTC:PSYC - GlobeNewswire - April 11th, 2020
- Is Progress In Autonomous Technology Gated By Research In Animal Communication? - Forbes - April 11th, 2020
- 'Iron lung' backed by Stephen Hawking's family to be trialled on Covid-19 patients - Telegraph.co.uk - April 11th, 2020
- Etihad to trial technology designed to identify passengers with symptoms of illness - Japan Today - April 11th, 2020
- For NYC students without technology: Whats in supplemental learning packet? - SILive.com - March 28th, 2020
- Reusing N95 masks in coronavirus pandemic possible with this technology - Fox Business - March 28th, 2020
- What COVID-19 tells us about technology and human behaviour - RTE.ie - March 28th, 2020
- 31 Technology Job Positions Hiring During the COVID-19 Crisis - Dice Insights - March 28th, 2020
- New Research and Technology Ministry Consortium to Assist Covid-19 Task Force - Jakarta Globe - March 28th, 2020
- Captains using technology to bond with teammates during pause - NHL.com - March 28th, 2020
- How Alternative Dispute Resolution and Technology Can Keep Your Cases Moving in the Face of Court Closures - JD Supra - March 28th, 2020
- The history of technology is about to change radically. India must seize the moment. - YourStory - March 28th, 2020
- Dell Technologies World 2020 Rescheduled To This Fall - CRN: Technology news for channel partners and solution providers - March 28th, 2020
- Office Movers Now Come Strapped With Tracking Technologies - Bisnow - March 28th, 2020