When a judge comments on e-trials in a reported decision, it is an instant resource for others who want to litigate digitally. Justice Germain at the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta presided over Edmonton’s first E-trial in 2010. He added a 17-paragraph, “Schedule 1 – Judicial Comments About the Electronic (Digital) Trial Format” to his reasons for judgement, and everyone who cares about using courtroom technology took notice.
Why this matters: We don’t hear from the courts very often about electronic trials. Parties and judges who are considering using an e-trial format generally feel more comfortable when they hear that another judge had a good experience with an e-trial. That is why we included Justice Germain’s comments, and other judicial comments in reported decisions, on our E-trial Resource Page.
Justice Germain’s Schedule gives us a judge’s perspective on the benefits of e-trials. It was a commercial case and the main set of documents filled 2600 pages. It would have been 18, 3-inch paper binders “stuffed with paper”. Justice Germain noted that, in an e-trial format, it was a single CD filed as Exhibit 1. Not only did this reduce the volume of paper in the courtroom, it also helped Justice Germain as he wrote his judgement: “I did not have to lug boxes of exhibit copies around – the relevant information was all in the memory of the laptop.”
Counsel and Justice Germain estimated that the e-trial saved two weeks of trial time: it reduced their trial days by 40%. He wrote “the odd momentary delay in finding and pressing the right computer icon to generate the exhibit on the screen pales in comparison to the clerk lugging a binder to the witness box, the judge reaching across the dais to grab a working copy, all of the parties flipping to the correct page, and then taking evidence on the exhibit.”
Writing in 2010, Justice Germain concluded the evidentiary portion of the case “with a view that I had seen a glimpse of the future.”