ECSC Launches Court On­line

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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.

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