Justice system explores online access issues

An international conference that examines movement of justice systems to the Internet and online access to legal information will make its North American debut in Montreal on Wednesday.

LexUM, a division within the

Public Law Research Centre at the University of Montreal, and the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) are co-hosting the fourth annual Law Via The Internet conference. The three-day event will convene delegates from Canada, the United States, Europe and Africa to discuss the impact of technology on legal procedure. LexUM has been providing free Internet Access to Supreme Court of Canada decisions for almost 10 years.

The Legal Information Institute (LII), of which CanLII is a chapter, has previously held the conference in Sydney Australia. Monique Stam, LexUM’s conference director, said moving the event to Montreal will allow for a bilingual presentation of the sessions and easier access to some of the international attendees.

Law Via the Internet attendees will include government employees, judges and law librarians — technology specialists that work in the publication of laws online. At least one track will be directed strictly at judges and adjudicators.

Stam said attendees are particularly interested in diverse projects involving integrated justice systems, privacy issues and the difficulty in developing standards that keep up with the amount of legal information offered online.

Having previously worked with the Ministry of Justice, Stam said she knows first-hand the difficulty in getting legal information online.

“”A lot of people in the legal field are very strongly linked to paper and to traditional means of research,”” she said. “”It’s quite a project to change the way things have been done for over a century.””

Richard Gold, who was recently appointed to McGill University’s first chair in e-Governance, said issues surrounding law and technology require a broad outlook.

“”If you just concentrate on the provision of electronic services by the government and the huge implications of what entails, then when you start thinking about the broader regulatory regime, you see that it really encompasses how a society faces technology in a global environment,”” he said.

The first session to take place on Wednesday will look at intellectual property issues. The following sessions will dealing with privacy, then standards. The Canadian Citation Committee, for example, will explain standards developed with the Canadian Judicial Council. Stam said one discussion will emphasize the need for plain language in documents published to the Web.

“”It used to be that mostly lawyers read decisions. Now we’re faced with the fact that everyone’s reading them,”” she said. “”If they’re accessible physically, they must be accessible to the readership.

Martin Cauchon, Canada’s Attorney General, is also scheduled to speak at the conference on Friday.

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