Are Canadian Courts Adapting With New Technologies?

The cornerstone of any free society is a thriving court system which takes the approach to justice very seriously. For a court system to truly serve its constituents it has to keep up with the technology and the Canadian legal system is no exception.

Fortunately, the modern technological advances that have been woven into the Canadian courts have proven to not only be cost effective but also to serve the greater good.

I see you!

There is a practical aspect of adapting technology to court use and that has to do with geography. Beyond our vibrant urban cities, Canada is a vast land of abundant resources and environments. The current population stands at 30 million + but we are scattered all across the Canadian landscape. As such, it’s not uncommon for a judge to be issuing rulings 1,500 miles from the main courthouse. This is where video conferencing has made a huge difference in terms of expediting court cases.

With video conferencing, a judge can review, cross examine and make a ruling on an applicant who might be several miles away. By adapting video conferencing there is also a great reduction in the need for prisoner escort costs. In some cases, a video conference is a benefit when a hardened criminal can remain incarcerated without the chance of getting contraband passed to them outside the confines of the jail. This is definitely a case where swift justice can prevail.

Shuffling papers…

Another positive use of technology is with case management, especially the large amounts of paperwork to manage. New software and systems have been created that allow documents to be created, edited and stored virtually on secure servers. It allows court clerks instant access to case files and removes redundant data entry.

As with the video conferencing, upgrading to a case-management system for certain court documents is a cost saver not only on paper but also physical storage space. The caution is to insure that these documents are secure. Safeguards need to be put into place to make sure only designated court personnel would have access to these types of records. By the same token, these files have to be properly updated to insure that an innocent party has their record expunged.

Efficiency is the key

During the actual trial, technology can play a role when it comes to evidence presentation. A power point presentation is easy to compile and understand. It’s also helpful when it comes to reviewing that evidence if it is kept on a single file as opposed to scattered over dozens of charts and placards. Many courts have upgraded old transcript recording to new digital recording methods. Once again technology proves to streamline a process while reducing costs.

Clearly, the Canadian courts are putting technology to work. The question then becomes how dominant will that technology become and will there be safeguards to protect privacy? Ironically, the answer to that will be decided by the courts.

Legal Adaptive Capacity and How Agencies Respond to Change

When Congress creates administrative agencies to address social problems, it cannot envision all of the circumstances in which they may be called on to exercise their delegated statutory authority. Indeed, the recognition that agencies will address questions on which Congress lacks expertise or experience is a principal reason for delegating regulatory or management authority to them in the first place.

Legal Adaptive Capacity and How Agencies Respond to Change

Some agencies are embedded in a legal infrastructure that is better situated to accommodate to changed conditions or novel problems than others, however. The adaptability of the goals that Congress sets out in an agency’s organic statute can either facilitate or doom that agency’s efforts to effectuate programmatic goals in the face of change.

We call this adaptability legal adaptive capacity, meaning the formal legal regime’s capacity to adapt to new phenomena. For our purposes, this regime comprises rules—such as agency regulations, manuals, plans, and guidance—promulgated by public legal institutions, including legislatures, courts, and administrative agencies. Legal adaptive capacity does not refer to other factors, such as resource constraints or agency culture, which may nonetheless influence the adaptive capacity of a regulatory regime.

Law can facilitate (or hamper) adaptation through both substantive and procedural means. We focus on substantive legal adaptive capacity, which we define as the degree to which statutory or regulatory goals are capable of accommodating change. An agency with a high degree of substantive legal adaptive capacity has the authority to adjust its interpretation of regulatory goals or the means of pursuing them, so as to meet new challenges or accommodate changed circumstances. A program with limited substantive legal adaptive capacity has relatively rigid goals that do not allow the agency to alter its regulatory or management approach, notwithstanding changed conditions. Substantive legal adaptive capacity thus measures the extent of elasticity in regulatory or management goals. Accordingly, two regulatory regimes may have similar levels of substantive legal adaptive capacity but nonetheless different regulatory goals.

To illustrate the value of the concept of legal adaptive capacity, consider the extent to which the four principal federal land management agencies—the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management—have taken actions to prepare for the effects of climate change on the lands and resources that they manage, including wilderness areas under the Wilderness Act of 1964. Contrary to conventional wisdom—which is largely focused on the degree of an agency’s so-called commitment to conservation—the pacesetter in climate change adaptation among the land management agencies has been the Forest Service, followed by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Bureau of Land Management generally appears to be the agency least ready to minimize the impacts of climate change, though wilderness areas across all agencies are the least prepared.

We believe that part of the explanation for the Forest Service’s demonstrated leadership in this area is the degree to which its organic statute, the National Forest Management Act of 1976, provides expansive substantive legal adaptive capacity. The statute’s focus on long-term ecological sustainability and diversity establishes a broad but not overly specific resource management goal—management for multiple uses and sustained yield.

The National Park Service, by comparison, operates under longstanding regulatory interpretations that require it to preserve resources in their historical conditions and minimize the degree of human intervention with nature. These instructions are notably ill-suited to adapting the agency’s management approaches to climate change, given the unprecedented changes climate change has already begun to invoke as well as its resulting natural resource impacts. Even if the Park Service were fully committed to adapting to climate change, therefore, its substantive legal adaptive capacity would hinder its ability to do so by tethering it to resource conditions that may become impossible to sustain.

The organic legislation and promulgated regulations for the national wildlife refuges provide a moderate degree of flexibility in selecting management goals and the means to achieve them, situating the Fish and Wildlife Service as refuge manager somewhere between the Forest Service and the Park Service in both the degree of substantive legal adaptive capacity and the progress it has made in preparing for climate change.

The outlier is the Bureau of Land Management, which has substantive legal adaptive capacity similar in scope to the Forest Service’s, but which has done the least to address climate change. The absence of clear and enforceable directives to exercise substantive legal adaptive capacity may partially explain the difference between Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service adaptation. But beyond possessing legal adaptive capacity, the agency must also be willing to exercise the discretion it has been afforded. Agency traditions, culture, and resource constraints—to name just a few factors—may hinder it from doing so. Thus, although the Bureau has sufficient legal adaptive capacity to address climate change, its organic statute does not require it to exercise that authority, and the agency has been slow to do so.

More broadly, we recognize that expanding substantive legal adaptive capacity involves trade offs, and greater agency pliability may not always be desirable. In the federal lands context, however, the trade offs strongly point toward enhancing the four agencies’ substantive legal adaptive capacity because doing so is more likely to promote ecological health than adherence to the historical and non interventionist values that federal land conservation laws also express. .

Mandating the advancement of, and periodic re-assessment against, a flexible goal—such as the promotion of ecological health in light of changing conditions—may maximize the chance for effective adaptation to change rather than impede it.

Why Getting the Wording Right for Your Legal Documents Is Essential

Modern business depends upon correctly worded business documents to function. The saying that ‘the Devil’s in the detail’ is particularly relevant today, as contracts become more complex and are required to transcend international boundaries and borders, thanks to the Internet. So what can you do to make sure your business legal documents are up to date, accurate and, more importantly, legally binding?

Talk to the experts

Legal ‘jargon’ can be confusing for the average business owner. Although you may know your business inside out, creating business documents that have the clout in the courts that you need is a specialist skill that requires a detailed understanding of both the system and the legislation it generates. A legal expert can not only give you legal advice, but they can also create business document templates that will conform to all Scottish legislation, as well as generic laws passed by the UK government. Businesses need to be able to communicate to each other clearly and in terms that everyone understands. That is why there is a growing movement within the legal system to produce business documents that can be easily adapted to suit any business environment, but incorporating language that is clear, concise and easy to understand, even if you’re not a legal expert.

Create your own documents

Using business legal templates is a quick and easy way to create your own legal documents that will conform to Scottish law. Laid out in a clear and easy to understand manner, business legal documents can form the basis for a successful partnership between your business and your suppliers, your staff and even your shareholders.