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COVID-19: Time to move applying eCourt Service

Apr 20,2020 - Last updated at Apr 20,2020

The current system in resolving disputes through litigation is to appoint lawyers and appear before courts. This system is costly for users; it is too time consuming and disputes take a long time to resolve. It is also out of step in the digital society, where citizens have a growing expectation that such system will be delivered digitally. With the Internet, advanced hardware and software coming on-stream, the current system of appearing in front of a judge with many case-files shall be changed. The digital solution, which we may call ‘eCourt Service’, is now available in certain countries. The United States is currently the leading country in using a digital solution.

The eCourt Service is an online digital service that enables legal practitioners and other registrars to manage and process cases without having to physically enter courts. A decision maker (a registrar or judge) from the court can manage the cases under the eCourt Service. The service aims at preventing lawyers and their clients from wasting valuable time at court, waiting for their matter to be heard, as well as the travel costs associated with appearing in person. They can also examine files, pay court fees, submit their documents and claims and file cases electronically, in addition to the fact that they can access all relevant information and learn the day fixed for the trial without checking with court staff by phone or in person. Barristers, solicitors and their delegates and self-represented litigants can use the eCourt Service if their case is ‘eligible’ for the eCourt Service. Thus, such service cannot be used for all types of cases.

COVID-19 is a lesson that we should learn from to move forward towards applying eCourt Service in Jordan. At present, nearly all legal services are closed. Lawyers are suffering from being unable to proceed in their cases or even to access their offices. The only matter that they are able to do right now is providing legal consultations accompanied with few barriers.

We shall remember that Jordan was the leading country in applying eGovernment technology in the region, but unfortunately the continuation of such application was and still too slow. Thus, the eGovernment technology is already available in Jordan to create and develop the eCourt Service. However, maybe a number of lawyers and even judges will be against the application of such service since they accommodated themselves with the current system. In fact, any new system might have opposition but we need to look at the difference between the current system and the digital system in regards to their benefits and how the future might appear. Whether we like it or not, the global future of eGovernment technology will impose such service and the current system will disappear.

As a result, if there is at present a trend in Jordan to apply such service, it shall be applicable gradually. In other words, the introduction of such service shall be by identifying the ‘eligible’ cases that can be registered, and gradually extend it to include court proceedings of such cases. Thus, registration of cases online shall be the first step towards applying such service, where we can test the service of any defaults that may appear, and then we may move on to apply virtual courtrooms. This means that the application of the eCourt Service shall be applicable by using the smart government method, not the e-government one, where the later one depends in its application on the decision maker, while the smart one depends on and develops through the end-users’ comments on the barriers that they might face.

In consequence, the creation and development of such service shall be through the cooperation of the Judicial Council, the Ministry of Justice, the Jordan Bar Association and later on the end-users; i.e. registrars, lawyers and judges. Of course, certain legislations shall be amended and certain by-laws shall be added to implement the eCourt Service. 

The writer is an attorney at law and professor of commercial law. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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