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Hacking Judicial Language for Open Justice

Hackeando el Lenguaje Judicial para una Justicia Abierta

Mariano Heller|

In Argentina, like elsewhere in the world, accessing justice and understanding the judicial language is highly complex, so many people cannot comprehend the judicial processes that affect them or their rights.

Access to justice is key to guarantee the inclusion of open government policies in the judiciary. Along with transparency, accountability, open data, citizen participation and access to information policies, “open justice” means the need to bring the justice system closer to the people. Using clear language is key to making this link and to securing a justice system that is accessible to all.

With this in mind, the Open Justice and Innovation Lab of the Buenos Aires Council of Magistrates (JusLab) and the Secretariat for Coordination of Judicial Policies are working to simplify the judicial texts that judges regularly use to communicate with the citizens involved in judicial processes. As a result, people will no longer be forced to turn to a lawyer to interpret the language. The process, a collaborative “ideathon”, was full of innovation and surprises. It was the first-ever to take place virtually (via Zoom) and in real-time, showing that we can work toward open justice, even during the pandemic. 

 

The second innovation was the high turnout. We invited people via social media and, to our surprise, over 100 people registered for the event. We separated them into groups so everyone had the opportunity to contribute to clarify the language and draft a new document that resulted from meaningful debate.  

After nearly two hours of online work, groups shared their results. Here comes the third innovation: nearly 100 people, most of whom did not know each other, were successful in simplifying the language used in two judicial texts. The texts are now shorter and easier to understand, free of technical terms. 

 

Beyond the outcomes of this process, we would like to highlight two key elements. First, the importance of the participation of civil society representatives and individuals not engaged in the justice and law arenas. The openness to new voices and views improved the quality of the debate and offered new perspectives to the members of the judiciary. Second, the importance of the simplification process so that everyone can have access to the use of clear language as a tool to come closer to the citizenry.

Lastly and, perhaps most importantly, the two judges who participated in the online workshop inputting their resolution models to be adapted to a clearer language, declared that they would start using the texts that resulted in this collective and open innovation exercise.

The road toward Open Justice is tough. Transforming, opening up and revamping a traditionally conservative institution is difficult. It means breaking barriers, tearing down myths and promoting a profound change in the organizational culture. But experiences like these certainly bring hope and help imagine people-centered, trustworthy judiciaries that leave no one behind.

Comments (1)

Elisa Bianchi Reply

Me parecen muy interesantes ambos ejemplos. En varios textos teóricos sobre Lenguaje Claro, se reflexiona sobre el presunto “nivel de escolarización” que tendría el lector de estos textos, y consecuentemente, su capacidad de comprensión de los documentos como los ejemplificados. Pero en realidad, por lo menos en el “castellano judicial”, aún los lectores con formación terciaria no judicial, por ejemplo, arquitectos, ingenieros, farmacéuticos, etc. tendrían dificultades de comprensión. Y esto no sólo por el vocabulario, sino por la sintaxis, y las formas argumentativas.
En uno de los videos, un juez aconseja redactar con “sujeto – verbo y predicado”, lo que parece muy disruptivo en el “castellano judicial”.
¡Felicitaciones por estos esfuerzos de apertura!

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