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Lessons from Reformers: Court Modernization

These case studies are featured in OGP’s Justice Policy Series, Part II: Open Justice paper. Read it here.

Justice Policy Series, Part II: Open Justice Explore how applying the principles of open government can create fairer and more effective justice systems.

Kenya’s commercial courts are transitioning to e-court processes.

Without a system for electronic filing, court records in Kenya have been maintained in libraries of thousands of often-disorganized paper documents. This makes it challenging for court officials to keep track of cases, leading to debilitating backlogs for judicial officials and delayed judgments for citizens. In 2012, Kenya made an OGP commitment to modernize the judiciary with the goal of improving the courts’ efficiency, transparency, and accountability. Among the initiatives included in the commitment, Kenya implemented software that would allow case proceedings and judgments to be made available online, enabling Kenyans to access and download cases and judgments online for the first time. The government also hoped to implement software that would randomly assign new cases to judicial officials to avoid bias and conflicts of interest in judgments, although this was not achieved by the end of the action plan. This has allowed scholars to identify significant ethnic bias in judicial decisions, pointing to the need to improve recruitment and training in high courts.[1]

Building on these initiatives, in 2017, Kenya continued attempts to digitize and automate certain court processes to address case backlogs and delays. In a pilot carried out at the Commercial and Tax division of the High Court, the Kenyan judiciary began digitizing case files and centralizing them using case management software. The system also includes a variety of other functions aimed at making court information more accessible and proceedings more efficient. For example, a public-facing case-tracking portal allows court users to check the status of their case online, and an e-payment platform helps citizens navigate the previously complex fee payment processes.

 

OTHER OGP COMMITMENTS

  • Albania: Implement an online inspection, make judicial hearings available online through their integrated case management system, and digitize court files to simplify transferring information between court levels of the judiciary (2012-2014).
  • Brazil: Implement an electronic system for judicial proceedings in the electoral courts to reduce court delays (20162018).
  • Costa Rica: Create an online observatory to ensure efficient management of cases and reduce delays in delivering decisions (20192020).
  • Greece: Implement an electronic system to monitor the status of all pending cases and allow electronic submission of documents for all parties (20162018).
  • Montenegro: Establish the National Administrative Fee Collection System in order to simplify the payment of court fees for citizens and improve monitoring of outstanding payments (20182020).

 

Featured Photo Credit: mnirat

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