Hello Malankie John Gondwe!
Thank you so much for your interest in our project. We are a Criminal Court of the City of Buenos Aires. I would like to share with you our digital and interactive book “Open Justice: the Idea into Practice”, the link is available in our honorable mention webpage (see the english version published in our website).
Here the Project Description:
Because of the social, preventive, and mandatory lockdown, we had to introduce changes in our work organization and implement new ICTs to work remotely. Thus, we turned to a paperless environment, and we adopted measures leading to a redesign of services. As well, we implemented new processes and procedures, new means of communication, management
practices of Open Justice, and we took training courses to learn technology skills.
Regarding the management of court cases, we initially needed to adjourn and rescheduled hearings and full proceedings, while others of urgent nature remained in progress. In this sense, once we managed to adapt and redesign the processes, we began to manage all criminal, misdemeanor, and infraction cases pending before COVID-19 to avoid unnecessary delays.
Having in mind our return to our workplace, we aim to avoid dealing with delayed cases and the new ones simultaneously, which may lead to considerable delays and damages to the citizens’ rights. For that reason, we are working on all cases that can progress despite this remote context by maintaining contact with the parties through the Electronic Filing Desk and the
Criminal Defense Attorney Portal.
We redesigned these processes: initial case filings and their processing; signing process, official letters, and search warrants; management of external and internal communication; and management and implementation of Open Justice initiatives. For that purpose, we used those digital tools we had been working with and implemented them in our teamwork.
Additionally, the team of the Court mainly uses remote meetings or WhatsApp communications for internal and external interactions. As regards the implementation of the Open Justice initiatives, we formed thematic groups based on the interest of each team member, and we exchange ideas by using digital tools.
COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to new challenges and barriers. We faced an increase in certain crime cases and misdemeanors due to the current scenario in the City of Buenos Aires. Despite the social, preventive, and mandatory lockdown, the demand for justice in the City of Buenos Aires has not diminished. A clear example of this is the increase in gender-based violence. This could be noted in the Court’s data since 45% of the arrests were made in violence-against-
women cases during the second half of April, while they represented 14% of the total arrests in January of this year.
The change of perspective in the understanding of our work and its impact drives us to continue working further in the path we have taken, and it encourages us to continue thinking, questioning and modifying those practices incorporated in the judicial system.
Since the imposition of the mandatory lockdown, we worked remotely as the Council of the Magistracy of the City of Buenos Aires gave us access to the legal case management systems through the use of a VPN. Before the pandemic, access to said tools was only possible from the desktop computers at the Court connected to an internal network. We also incorporated
Cisco Webex, a new communication platform to hold videoconference hearings and meetings. Thus, we have an exclusive virtual hearing room for the Court.
In this sense, the most innovative aspects of the project are:
Electronic Filing Desk: we give assistance to defendants, offenders, experts, citizens etc. that can make all kinds of inquiries or raise any doubt at the virtual reception desk.
Inclusion of lawyers to the Court Electronic Record (CER): Having established the internal management processes for enforcement of fines and after obtaining an electronic interaction with lawyers, we decided to extend our services to the Criminal, Misdemeanor, and Infraction processes. In this sense, we offered claimants and defendants the digitization of all
Hearings by videoconference: we hold to all kinds of hearings through the electronic mode.
Remote Oral Trial: we faced the greatest challenge, to conduct a remote oral trial. For such purposes, we developed a strict cybersecurity protocol.
Citizen participation in hearings: we give access to hearings to the general public, that is, those who have interest in the matter but are not parties to the case.
Digital Communication and publicity of initiatives: We use our Court’s Twitter and Instagram @jpcyf13 user account to communicate activities for making our new services public, we post hearing ́s schedule and judicial resolutions. Also we interact with citizens and judiciary parties through our social networks, emails, WhatsApp messages, and in every resolution, we inform the parties about the next steps to get a username in the Criminal Defense Attorney Portal and how to access the Electronic Filing Desk.