AN INTERNET-based gateway to the Commonwealth Court system was officially launched by Attorney General Robert McClelland last week.
The Commonwealth Courts Portal — a combined project of the Federal Court, the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court — has been designed to streamline the path of cases through the Commonwealth Court system and enable better access to justice for litigants.
The portal allows court users to conduct a number of transactions online, such as lodging documents, submitting draft orders, requesting hearing dates and accessing listing. In addition, its “e-search” function allows court users to track the process of matters online.
The portal was unveiled by McClelland last Tuesday at a launch held at the Federal Court. In attendance was Chief Justice Diana Bryant of the Family Court, Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe and Acting Chief Justice Peter Gray of the Federal Court.
Addressing the audience, McClelland said that the government strongly supports the introduction of the portal and he emphasised the role the internet can play in breaking down the barriers between the public and the court system.
“The rule of law requires not only that laws be fair and just, but also that the community properly understands those laws. That is why technology is such an important tool in creating new pathways to access justice,” he said.
“In particular the internet has changed the way in which courts and lawyers have operated for centuries and [has] presented new opportunities for increasing access to justice,” McClelland said.
“While open justice has long been a fundamental principle of our legal system, it has been the internet which has really thrown open courts’ doors to the public.”
McClelland also spoke about the important role that information technology can play in simplifying “mega litigation” — large commercial disputes with complex legal issues, multiple parties and lawyers and large amounts of evidence and documentation.
“Mega-litigation consumes a disproportionate amount of our court resources — resources paid for by the public,” he said. “In such cases, technology could make a big difference. Reducing strain on resources by allowing documents to be lodged online, or for hearings to be held electronically, is a worthy goal.”