Last week, Gov. John Engler signed into law a bill that will create a cybercourt for the Michigan judicial system. The first of its kind in the nation, Michigan”s cyber court will only handle business disputes involving at least $25,000 and will allow attorneys to file briefs online and put in their court appearances via teleconference rather than travel to an actual brick and mortar courthouse.

The cybercourt program brings with it several advantages. It is being hailed nationally as an example of innovation that brings 21st Century technology to the centuries-old practice of law. Furthermore, it is hopeful that the cybercourt will be able to make the Michigan judicial system more efficientonline proceedings will allow for the exchange of information and the submission of briefs at a much quicker rate. This can only increase the speed of legal proceedings, thus reducing the workload for an already overburdened legal system.

However, any endorsement of the cybercourt system must come with some caveats. The implementation of the cybercourts should not come at the expense of the state of Michigan”s existing courts. Lawmakers in Lansing should take extra care to make sure that the appropriations for Michigan courts do not become a zero-sum game namely, the funding for the cybercourts come at the expense of existing courts.

Additionally, it is important that the cybercourts not be used as a device to justify reductions of our existing judicial system. Wayne County alone is scheduled to lose six judges by the year 2005. State Rep. Bill McConico of Wayne County”s Highland Park and Hamtramck is one who shares these concerns. He feels that any gains from efficiency brought on by the cybercourt will not compensate for the judges he is losing in his county.

Furthermore, the cybercourt law states that the cybercourt judges will be existing circuit and district court judges assigned by the Michigan Supreme Court to the cybercourt. Rather than obtaining its judges from a judicial system already in short supply of them, Engler and the state legislature should instead create new judgeships for the cybercourt. This way the Constitutional guarantee of a fast trial will not be threatened by making Michigan”s courts even more understaffed.

While the new cybercourts hold the possibilities of innovation and promise for Michigan”s courts, it is important they do not ultimately serve as diversion of money and manpower from our existing ones.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.