Crisis as catalyst for change: Professor Karen Eltis discusses how technology is transforming our courts

Faculty of Law - Civil Law Section

By Civil law

Communication, Faculty of law

Karen Eltis, Digital Gavel
With technological advancements perpetually upending and reordering nearly every aspect of our lives, our laws and legal systems must constantly evolve to keep pace. Sometimes this happens seamlessly, but sometimes transformation is a real challenge.

The Modern Law podcast series, presented by the Canadian Bar Association’s National Magazine, explores the ins and outs of the technological evolution of our laws and legal systems. In the most recent episode, host Yves Faguy interviewed Professor Karen Eltis of the Civil Law Section about the efforts that courts are making to modernize, and the challenges they are facing in the process. The pandemic forced courts to adapt, for example, by holding hearings virtually rather than in-person. While a return to in-person hearings is underway, the flexibility offered by virtual hearings suggests they are likely to remain a permanent fixture of our justice system. Add to this the possibilities presented by data analytics and artificial intelligence, and it’s clear that courts will have to continually transform to keep up with perpetual technological advancements.

“The crisis of the pandemic and the related measures have moved us way into the future – have created a migration of services online, overnight, and have swept away this psychological resistance to digital transformation, which is wonderful,” says Professor Eltis. “Crisis as catalyst for change is welcome, but I think when it comes to this abrupt transition, we really haven’t had a chance to think it through [.…] and look at whether or not we’ve swung from one extreme to another. And if we have, what sort of tweaks do we need to build in in order to ensure that we’re not driven solely by efficacy, but that we’re building trust with something as sensitive as the justice system.”

Listen to the full episode: Episode 13: Transforming our courts using technology

Previous episodes of Modern Law have also featured members of the Faculty of Law.  Episode 6: Competition law and the digital economy featured Professor Jennifer Quaid of the Civil Law Section, while Épisode 3: Comment se préparer pour l’ère de l’informatique quantique, featured Professor Florian Martin-Bariteau of the Common Law Section.