The Impact of Technology on Courts and Judicial Ethics: An Overview
University of Ottawa - Civil Law Section
November 20, 2008
JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE IN CANADA AND THE WORLD, L. Sossin, A. Dodek, eds., University of Toronto Press, 2009
Technology plays an incontrovertibly central role in contemporary judicial work and lives, both on and off the bench. Along with tremendous benefits, it imports substantial new challenges that increasingly impact upon courts and judicial ethics. And yet, notwithstanding its growing relevance, the question of technology's ramifications for the judiciary has thus far evaded scholarly inquiry almost entirely, leaving courts (for the most part) with little choice but to attempt to fit new technologies into outdates regimes and practices.
Online court records and privacy, ex parte email communication (by self-represented litigants), inadvertently e-mailed draft decisions and the matter of independence and government-owned and operated court servers are but a few of the plentiful issues arising with greater - indeed disconcerting - frequency. The cumulative effect of these, it stands to reason, is to ultimately prompt courts to revisit the conventional construction of fundamental concepts including disclosure, competence - even impartiality - and the balance to be struck between foundational values such as transparency and privacy in the Internet age.
In an effort to alert judges to up-and-coming matters deriving from the use of technology, the following will first endeavor to highlight issues arising from the interplay between technology and judging. It will then more specifically address two of the referenced issues namely, the networked environment's ramifications for out-of-court judicial expression and judicial use of online resources (including search engines and Wikipedia) as it relates to competence and diligence, inter alia.
Keywords: Law, Courts, Judicial Ethics, Internet, New Technologies, Constitutional Law
Date posted: November 24, 2008