What is Civil Court?

Civil Court is a place where there are trials being held for legal matters specifically civil cases in determining the amount of damages the party in default be liable for to be awarded to the innocent party. A civil case is basically a lawsuit between two or more people either jointly or separately. However, the aim of civil cases for example, contract between companies, if there is breach of contract it is actually not to punish the default party but to compensate the innocent party as nearly as possible in the same position as if the plaintiff would have been in if the breach has not occurred.

Civil cases that have been conducted in the civil court quite long time ago are Carlil v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co, Dickinson v Dodds, Pharmaceutical Society of GB v Boots Cash Chemists (Southern) Ltd and many more. Other than that, torts cases. Torts are generally a wrongful act such as negligence, trespass, strict liability, nuisance and defamation. These wrongful acts result in damage or injury. The aim is also to compensate the injured party. However, damages or loss suffered by the injured party must not be too remote for the defendant to be liable for. Cases under torts that have been conducted in the civil court are Donoghue v Stevenson (negligence) , Bolam v Friern Hospital Management Committee (bolam test) and many more.

The Civil court structure for the High Court is the High Court deals with the toughest and complex civil cases and cases that commenced in the High Court should be referred to a professional adviser because the rules on representation in the High Court grant only those representatives with higher rights of audience to represent a client in the High Court. Usually, some cases may not be started in the High Court unless the value of the claim is up to £100,000. If the value of the claim overreach this amount, the client has a choice and can choose whether they want to start the proceedings in the High Court. However, there are some cases, such as applications for judicial review or high value possession claims, which can only be heard in the High Court. Additionally, cases that include a claim for damages for personal injury in which the value of the claim more than £50,000 must be commenced in the High Court. When one case already started in the High Court, the client will not have any other choices than accept and continue with the proceedings.

Next, the Civil court structure for the County Court is the County Court also deals with civil cases including all money claims of up to £100,000. Nevertheless, in theory, originally any proceedings must be started in a County Court first and claims of a value such as £10,000 or £1,000 are normally allocated to the small claims track in the County Court. There is a single national County Court in England and Wales. Unfortunately, the historic geographical jurisdictional boundaries of the County Courts have been removed in 2014. Claims that are registered online, can be started at any County Court and will be sent to the proper hearing centre by that office.

It has been decades since the issue regarding “Can robots actually replace human jobs?”, “Can robots take over the world?”. What some people don’t know is it doesn’t mean an actual proper robot that looks like a human being or with body parts that could take over human tasks but our current technology that actually could at least transform humans work, not replacing them. There is no doubt that technology or so called the Internet has advanced extremely well in the last half-century. Technology is officially a big part of our society and truth to be told, it has made our life much easier in many ways. Nowadays, we couldn’t live without technology, that’s how significant the technology to humans life. We can’t deny that technology affects humans life so much but what about justice? Is it possible for the technology to bring the justice to the people fairly and for the people to receive what they really deserve in the end of the day? Is it possible for the technology to replace our justice system efficiently?

In July 2015, Lord Justice Briggs was authorized by the Lord Chief Justice and the master of the rolls to have an urgent review of the structure of the civil courts in England and Wales from the Court of Appeal, the High Court, lower down the judicial hierarchy and the County Courts and Lord Justice Briggs has been asked to be done with an interim report by the end of 2015. The purpose is to make a recommendation in changing the structural of Civil Court System which deliver civil justice because there used to be around 170 of local civil courts in England and Wales and every courts have their own geographical area, buildings and also staffs. However, in 2014 the County Courts were merged. Then, there is only one County Court with numbers of hearing centres. That amount will be lessen as courtrooms are closed and buildings were sold off.

In 2016, Lord Justin Briggs has come up with United Kingdom’s Civil Court System to a new online court in handling monetary claims of up to £25,000 as an alternative way to settle legal matters especially civil cases and the final report of Lord Justice Briggs’ Civil Court Structure Review was published on 27th July 2016. The concept of the online court is to help the users use the Civil Court system with a very minimum involvement from lawyers. The main thing of the review, Lord Justice Briggs said that the online court would become the obligatory forum for resolving civil cases within its jurisdiction eventually.

Lord Justice Briggs has delivered a very detailed and ingenious final report of the Civil Court Structure Review, which the senior judiciary working with the Government and HM Courts and Tribunal Service will now consider with care. “While a number of the reforms being recommended are already an integral part of the HMCTS reform programme, such as the Online Court, the report has benefited from wide consultation which will help to improve the design and planning of those reforms. “Completion of a review of this magnitude within twelve months is a considerable achievement, and I congratulate Michael Briggs on its depth and clarity of thought.”

The Master of the Rolls, the Rt Hon Lord Dyson, who with Lord Thomas jointly commissioned the review also gave his opinions by saying the civil justice is system was facing a number of pressures and challenges and which Lord Justice Briggs has gave his best in giving masterly analysis in that issue and came up with how the system could be modernised and made the system more efficient to the people. To him, Lord Justice Briggs recommendations will fall to his successor and it is time for others to consider his recommendations for the new future of justice.

Now, what is actually the meaning of online courts? It is very common that huge amount of people in the world now have the access to the technology such as, the Internet. They have the access to the internet more than they do access to the justice. Generally, cases like the resolution of civil disputes are not bearable to many people because of its high cost and not everyone could afford it, it takes too long and incomprehensible to most of the people in the world. Based on The Times December 6, 2018 by Richard Susskind, there are 100 million cases in Brazil and 30 million cases in India are hanging because of these factors. These are just two countries out of 195 countries in the world that are facing this problem. Truth to be told, there are more countries that are facing the same problem and with our current technology, online dispute resolution (ODR) might be the best solution in solving civil cases and reshaping our public justice system with a much better, easier and shorter procedures.

The European Commission has developed the online dispute resolution (ODR) scheme and it is a requirement of Regulations and Consumer Disputes. Online dispute resolution (ODR) is an automated online court that will help people resolve disputes correlating with online purchases of goods and services through the forum and without having to go to the court which is much convenient. The complaint that is filed by the consumer will be dealt by an authorised Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provider. It is designed to upgrade the traditional methods of Civil Court, reducing the cost and time, associated formalities. This online dispute resolution (ODR) is an online tool which simply assist with negotiations and adjudications by automated process.

To go through the online dispute resolution (ODR), firstly, make a complaint. To make a complaint, claimant has to start with fill in the online complaint form and the online complaint must be filled in with a few details such as personal details, the trader, purchase details and relevant documents such as invoices, receipts, agreements, purchase order must be uploaded. If it saved as a draft, it must be submitted within six months because after six months the draft will be deleted and removed automatically. Next, the claimant has the right to choose a dispute resolution body. After that, the trader will send their details; name(s), information, procedures, fees etc. Then, 30 days will be given for the claimant to agree on which dispute resolution body that will handle his dispute.

The claimant will have the right to choose any of the traders and make sure their complaints will be handled by them or if the claimant is not satisfied with the list of traders, the claimant can request for a new list of traders. If within those 30 days, the claimant still hasn’t agreed on a dispute resolution body, then the complaint will not be processed further. However, ODR account must be registered since it is compulsory for one to proceed with the procedures. Lastly, receive an outcome. The complaint will be sent to the chosen dispute resolution body. Notifications will be sent to the claimant either the dispute resolution body can or cannot handle the case through the platform.

Based on the Lord Justice Briggs review, the online court will become the compulsory forum in resolving cases within its jurisdiction. There are three stages that would be implemented by the online court. First, it involves an automated triage system on deciding the importance and the significance of the civil cases, this includes advice on what kind of preparation that need to be done; claim form and advice the claimants based on their cases in deciding the settlements between the claimant and defendant; particulars of claim. Second, an assigned case officer will be handling the arbitration and negotiation through the forum. Third, the decision stage. For the cases that are still cannot be settled at stage one or two, it will be determined by judicial decision.

Next, effectiveness of this online courts. There are numbers of advantages and disadvantages on how online courts could be the answer or solution for our justice problem. It is amazing how technology is already adjusting how justice works traditionally and how our justice system maybe significantly works differently in the future.

For the advantages, what are goods of this technology can do for our justice system? Firstly, it can speed up the lawsuit processes through the online procedures, documents handling and e-filing which it doesn’t take a lot of time and much easier rather than the traditional processes that one must go through the Civil Court which is known as lengthy trial and it takes longer time for one case to be done. Secondly, it makes the processes for LIPs much simpler by embedding procedural rules through online forms and the system will instruct the next steps and explains the rules.

Thirdly, this technology allows the consumer to assemble without the need for physical presence. Fourthly, the most convenient part of this online court is the automated processes could support and replace human decision making. From these factors, it is agreeable that it makes the parties and representatives task much easier by removing the need to travel to a civil court and the opportunity for efficiencies by closing courts. For example, the judge(s) may be virtually hearing the case in their courtrooms or chambers but there are high possibilities that they wouldn’t have to travel to work but just do the hearing at their home instead. The evidence in adversarial trials is traditionally be presented in person and parties can be represented or they can represent their case themselves.

They have to go through all the processes in the court, hear and see justice being done in a court with oral and legal arguments defending the parties or themselves while communicating with the judges at the same time. The judges will have to listen to the evidence and arguments to decide and serve the justice to the people and grant the parties what they really deserve however the inconvenience such as lengthy trial, high cost where the parties have to bear the full legal cost such as fees, took longer time to receive the outcome of the trial cannot be deniable.

For the disadvantages, the fact that online court is about moving away from physical gathering in a court might not be the best solution for a fair justice because there are many unpleasant implications could be occurred during the procedures of handling the evidence in online court because it will only be done in online and in writing or will be presented orally but there is also possibility of the evidence being too remote because one of the problems of having online court is parties or the representatives cannot explain or even persuade better the judges like how we can get it done in adversarial trials. The loss of physical presence might affect the long term consequences of the court as a physical site or place of serving justice to the people. The procedures in adversarial trials is traditionally pretty strict, efficient and more fair since no one can control anything but the judges. Moreover, communications and legal arguments can be done fairly and physically in the court which makes it more organised and better understanding for everyone.

The values and principles of adversarial trials need to be maintained to keep the public’s trust and their confidence in the justice system and not taking the justice system lightly and this also shows how it is quite important to keep the justice to be done in public because this is significantly affects the elements essential for legitimacy. Next, it is going to be hard for the judiciary to get used to their practices and ethical codes to the whole new level into online processes and virtual hearings as they need to transform themselves as cyber judges which is clearly hard to adapt and it is going to affect the new generation’s perception to be potential future judges. The estimation made by Government in its Digital Strategy 2013 across the United Kingdom relating with government services, there are 70% of the population demand assistance in using digital service and only 30% of the population are familiar enough in using digital service. This shows that are loads of people are still lacking in technology online justice system.

There are pro(s) and con(s) about having the online dispute resolution (ODR) or so called the online courts that we should take into account. It is also true that advantages of having online courts are outweigh the disadvantages. However, in my opinion I personally think that online courts are not a good reform and they could do more harm than good. Online court system is a fixed system and since it is an automated process, resolution advice doesn’t apply equally although they are in accordance with the facts and the significance of the civil cases.

Next, online court isn’t ideal is because to determine whether or not they are significant at the initial stage, it doesn’t involve a human intellect that should come about variety of judgments and this is because judges and lawyers can no longer interfere in determining and fighting for the better decisions with the online system like how they originally and traditionally do in the Civil Court. Based on my research, I think this new system can affect the new generations’ mind set in becoming potential judges or lawyers in the future because they think they would just end up working online which it doesn’t really sounds ethical and less professional. If this really happens, the education of law might collapse and justice cannot be served like how it should be served anymore in the future and this is definitely affects the standard of justice.

Next, the communication. Communication between the parties’ representatives and judges can only be done better in the Civil Court because communicate through the online court is pretty limited and miscommunication could happen. Arbitrations and negotiations are definitely more effective when the parties can communicate with one another freely. For example, listen and understand the facts of the case, empathize with each other, and confront emotions are considered to be an important part in settling any kind of civil cases and these types of communications can only be done in the courtrooms. Besides, having to access to the digital service may pose a difficulty for some individuals let alone having to access to the online courts continuously for the length of time it takes to go through all the procedures and for those with limited access to the digital service might find this system inconvenient and uncomfortable to them. It is also unfair for those who are unfamiliar with computers and for those who are not capable of undertaking detailed written communications.

In addition, even though online courts can be affordable to everyone for resolving their disputes, however, they still need to pay more for the relatively modest fees that is required which involved in their e-commerce disputes. Lastly, protection of confidential documents or materials of the case in online dispute resolution (ODR) could be potentially for a party to print out, leak the communications and distribute e-mail communications easily without the other party knowing. This can lead to unfair proceedings and to me, up until now online courts cannot serve the justice fairly and it is not a good reform.

In conclusion, based on the Civil Court Structure Review, modernising our justice system into an online dispute resolution (ODR) with an automated process are proving to be an advantageous platform for a number of disputants. However, for the time being it should just stay available for the small civil cases only and to implement this for big cases, we might take many years to properly design and develop this online court technology without affecting the involvements of judges and lawyers into this platform and keep maintaining the traditional procedures like how Civil Court works but the only difference is online courts is based on online platforms and Civil Court is a physical court but the procedures, processes should be the same. Maybe in the future, for online courts to operate with big civil cases it may be a good idea to develop online video-conferencing technology, video call meeting, online legal advice from legal advisors and lawyers for a better online justice system.