Otago law researchers are collaborating with Australian colleagues to analyse the experiences of people who have participated in online legal hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost overnight the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the civil justice system worked, forcing the previously “slow-moving” New Zealand and Australian justice systems (which relied on traditional in-person hearings and trials) to move their operations online, minimise in-person proceedings, and conduct a range of hearings using phone and video conferencing.
Now the stories of litigants, lawyers and judicial staff are being collected and published on the Remote Justice Stories website: remotejusticestories.org
The Remote Justice Stories project is being led by Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, director of Otago's Legal Issues Centre, and Associate Professor Genevieve Grant, from the Australian Centre for Justice innovation (Monash University).
They say that analysis of participants' stories will show how this sudden move from a cautious approach to online processes impacted practice during the pandemic, and how it will affect online hearings in future post-pandemic times.
“Together the stories will provide a rich user-picture that can aid future development and form a record of civil justice in an extraordinary time.”
“Whether it's a short observation, an expression of frustration or humour, or a detailed and detached analysis, we would like to hear it,” says Toy-Cronin. “Together the stories will provide a rich user-picture that can aid future development and form a record of civil justice in an extraordinary time.”
The research aims to identify barriers to, and facilitators of, effective remote hearings; examine the attributes that make cases suitable or unsuitable for remote hearings; identify which users are advantaged or disadvantaged by the remote process; investigate changes in the roles of participants; and explore how the remote and face-to-face approaches to civil litigation compare – does evidence differ, for example?