ECSC Launches Court Online
The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court hopes that the lengthy and timeconsuming processes in relation to court cases and matters will be eliminated in the near future. On Thursday October 25, 2018 ECSC Chief Justice, Dame Janice Pereia, made what she described as the most important “click” of her life at the official launch of the ECSC's e-litigation portal, an online platform designed to manage the tedious parts of case filing procedures. Currently, for a lawyer to file a matter in the courts he would have to buy postage stamps, go to courthouse before 3p.m., wait in line and then go to the filing clerk, pay for filing the document and then stamp the date and time it was filed. The registry would then put in a hearing date on the matter and the lawyer would engage a bailiff to serve the document to every party involved wherever they may be.
Dame Pereira also mentioned that currently judges have to travel with hundreds of documents for cases in other territories and that sometimes airlines reject to carry the whole lot in one trip. This has also delayed progress within the ECSC court system.
But in the next eighteen months it is expected that this entire process will be wiped out. All a lawyer would have to do is upload the document onto the e-litigation portal. From there the process is simple. All parties involved will receive an email and other lawyers will receive a notification on their ECSC e-litigation account, meaning that the document has been served. The system or registrar will put in dates for the hearings and otherwise.
“Here you now have a vast difference. Our e-litigation platform is now accessible by all the stakeholders, all the users, anybody who has a particular interest in a matter,” said ECSC Chief Registrar, Michelle John-Theobalds.
When asked if this new system is expected to cut down time to deal with cases, John-Theobalds said, “That's our hope. There are rules with timelines. Sometimes people breach the timelines; they don't file on time. That in itself will delay the system. But we're making sure every angle of the system is available for it to work and we are urging users to make the best use of all of these capabilities.”
Another feature on the ECSC e-litigation portal is a schedule on which lawyers, registrars and judges can see all cases listed on their personal roster. According to John-Theobalds, clashed appointments or a party being unable to make a hearing in time because of a previous one are normal occurrences in the court system that delay the process. The calendar feature is meant to alert everyone involved of clashing appointments at the scheduling period of the process to avoid parties simply being unable to attend the scheduled date.
“So, you can see the number of middlemen that have been eliminated,” said JohnTheobalds. But that doesn't mean that the court doesn't need staff anymore. People who represent themselves in court, or those unable to use the e-litigation portal properly, will be able to walk into a department to be assisted. John-Theobalds added, “It's not that any jobs will be lost because people still need to reach staff, it's just have a change in roles to assist in other areas.”
ECSC staff and some lawyers have already been exposed to and practicing the e-litigation portal. The police force will follow, and all new cases will be recorded through this new platform. Older cases will gradually be inputted by court staff.
Of the nine ECSC territories, Saint Lucia is the only member to have launched the e-litigation portal. The ECSC hopes to transfer all the other territories to this format.