Justice Delivery in a Pandemic – Thinking Anew, Thinking Ahead
Words of the ILAC Executive Director, Agneta Johansson.
After a spring with a plethora of webinars, I believe we are all experiencing a bit of a COVID-19 fatigue. Even so, our members and partners are tackling concrete justice issues related to the pandemic every day. Representing legal professionals around the world, ILAC is very much aware of the constraints they are experiencing due to COVID-19. Anecdotal examples are starting to show how extensive and long-lasting the effects may be on judiciaries, how we work and people’s trust in justice systems.
Some legal professionals have been completely swayed by virtual hearings, while others are sounding a note of caution on the uncertain effects on justice seekers and the fair delivery of justice. Lawyers are losing clients – sometimes leading to losing their licence to practice.
Even in countries where one would expect courts to have detailed plans for contingencies and readiness to implement them, judiciaries showed lack of preparedness for this type of crises. Some are pointing towards an exacerbated difference in access to justice between groups and also between urban and rural settings.
At the same time, justice delivery has never been simple, and this crisis is also providing new opportunities to further improving access to justice as well as the quality of justice. Through technology and innovation, lawyers and judges are seeking to enhance the efficiency and administration of justice in order to respond to people’s justice problems. Constraints have also pushed legal professionals to be creative through both high- and low-tech solutions. Self-help kiosks, call centres and hotlines, virtual legal clinics, use of websites and social media, e-filing of complaints and use of physical or virtual mailboxes are just some examples.
To facilitate the sharing of best practices and lessons learned within our extensive membership, we are gathering studies, webinars, podcasts, policy briefs, blog posts etc related to COVID-19 and the justice sector on our webpage. We hope that can help all of us to better meet the challenges of Covid-19 and its aftermath.
ILAC members represent different legal professions, justice systems and countries. When we eventually emerge from this crisis, ILAC will be in a unique position to help re-establish those justice systems and justice communities that have been compromised or that are facing difficulties in the delivery of justice. The material on COVID-19 shared by members on our webpage will start preparing us for that.
In addition to gathering information on our members’ work on COVID-19 on our webpage, we have together with members, initiated two regional studies focusing on the effects of COVID-19 on the judiciary in Latin America and in the MENA region. The aim is that these studies can provide guidance on the aspects of the rule of law backsliding we need to monitor, and how we should start mobilizing the legal community to counter this downward trend.