A New Lens: Reframing the Conversation about the Use of Video-Conferencing in Civil Trials in Ontario

Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Forthcoming

42 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2013 Last revised: 12 Jul 2013

See all articles by Amy Salyzyn

Amy Salyzyn

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law; University of Ottawa - Common Law Section

Date Written: 2012


The state of courtroom technology in Ontario is increasingly capturing the attention of both the public and the legal profession. This article seeks to contribute to the conversation on this issue by focusing on one particular technology in Ontario’s courtrooms: the use of video-conferencing to receive witness testimony in civil trials.

The central claim is that the approach to video-conferencing that has come to dominate the policy discourse reflects an overly narrow, instrumentalist view of technology that fails to adequately take account of possible broader political and social implications as well as this technology’s transformative potential. This argument is developed by exploring two different sources of risk associated with the implementation of video-conferencing technology in civil trials: (1) how video-conferencing, as a mediating technology, may unintentionally interfere with credibility assessments and emotional connections between courtroom participants; and (2) the ways in which video-conferencing, by disrupting the physical geography of adjudication, threatens the solemnity associated with, and respect given to, the civil justice system.

A detailed consideration of these risks reveals that video-conferencing engages fundamental questions about our civil justice system and implicates democratic values in ways that require more nuanced consideration in conversations about its use. Rather than offer a final verdict on the use of video-conferencing in civil trials in Ontario, this article concludes by calling for our discourse on this issue to be deepened and broadened to include all stakeholders in a discussion about if and how video-conferencing technology should be incorporated into our civil justice system.

Suggested Citation

Salyzyn, Amy, A New Lens: Reframing the Conversation about the Use of Video-Conferencing in Civil Trials in Ontario (2012). Osgoode Hall Law Journal, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2200476

Amy Salyzyn (Contact Author)

University of Ottawa - Faculty of Law ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur St
Ottawa, Ontario K1N6N5

University of Ottawa - Common Law Section ( email )

57 Louis Pasteur Street
Ottawa, K1N 6N5

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