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
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.
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