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RedCrest saving time and money

Feature Articles

Cite as: July 2014 88 (07) LIJ, p.28

In a paradigm shift away from paper files, the Supreme Court of Victoria has developed an electronic system to improve efficiency and assist in the timely delivery of legal services. 

By Justice Peter Vickery

The internet continues to grow, spawning a dynamic global village. The concept was popularised by Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s.1 Almost 30 years before the invention of the world wide web, McLuhan artfully described how the globe had contracted into a village by “electric technology” and the instantaneous movement of information “from every quarter to every point at the same time”.

How profoundly accurate McLuhan’s prophecy was. In 1995 about 16 million people (or 0.4 per cent of world population) used the internet. At March 2014 an estimate is 2937 million users (or 40.7 per cent of world population).2 Spanning less than 10 years, this is a truly remarkable set of statistics. “Moore’s Law”3 suggests that the processing power of computers doubles every 18 months, while its cost halves in about the same period. The information revolution is here and is here to stay.

There is, however, a downside. “Mega-litigation” has a bad name for generating gargantuan volumes of documents. Even litigation conducted on the usual scale is similarly affected. Computers in common use in large commercial projects and everyday transactions are major contributors to this syndrome. Disputes now generate vast volumes of documents at great expense to all participants, thus giving rise to the disproportionate cost of litigation. This in turn poses a serious challenge to access to justice and the timely and efficient disposition of cases.

Harnessing the full potential of the computer itself can, on the other hand, provide a valuable management tool to deal with the problem, for the benefit of the Court, practitioners and litigants.

The Supreme Court of Victoria is the superior court of the State and deals with about 8500 cases across its divisions each year.

The Court operates outmoded and inefficient manual processes that generate enormous volumes of paper; the Principal Registry creates 18,000 files and accepts about 330,000 documents each year. The paper filing systems are proving to be inadequate and are imposing burdens on the Court, the legal profession and litigants.

Large-scale or “mega-litigation” can generate up to one terabyte of data.4 By way of “meat-pie” statistics,5 one terabyte is equivalent to a 2.5-metre stack of CDs or about 150 DVDs; it would hold all 350 episodes of The Simpsons, and contain the information found in 83,000 stacked telephone books.

To address the problem, the Supreme Court, with the support of the Department of Justice and the Department of Technology,6 embarked on the “RedCrest” project. The name is derived from the Court’s red seal in everyday use.

Paradigm shift

RedCrest represents a paradigm shift for the Supreme Court from a hard paper document filing system to a case-centric electronic filing and case management system.

Implementation of the project started in the TEC List of the Court as a pilot project on 22 September 2011. Following a successful trial with more than 400 users, further development of the system has now taken place for the judge-managed lists of the Commercial Court.7 It is proposed to introduce the system progressively to other divisions of the Court. By using a well-tested commercial software platform, costs have been modest for this type of project and operational efficiency has been maximised.8 RedCrest is the first application in the world of this platform for a case management system for a court and is protected by a provisional patent.

It is well accepted that IT projects are high risk enterprises.9 The risks set them apart from other more “mainstream” projects. Management of the risks calls for special focus and carefully planned strategies well beyond the norm. By adhering to risk management principles developed during the project, RedCrest has been constructed within budget and will be delivered within a few weeks of its designated program.

From the commencement date, scheduled for 1 August 2014, the filing of documents in the judge-managed lists of the Commercial Court10 will be governed by the RedCrest Rules to be introduced into the Supreme Court (General Civil Procedure) Rules 2005. A new Originating Process will be available online at www.RedCrest.com.au to commence a proceeding. The Court Rules will in turn be supported by a Practice Note, an Instruction Manual and an animated training film, all of which will be accessible online from the RedCrest homepage.

RedCrest will offer a comprehensive “one-stop shop” case management system for a proceeding in the Commercial Court of the Supreme Court, presented in a simple, workable and secure format. It provides a range of state-of-the-art features to assist in the management of a case from start to finish and will significantly enhance communications between the Court and those participating in litigation.

The electronic file created in RedCrest will become the court file in a proceeding in the Commercial Court. The electronic file may be accessed by the Court, legal practitioners (barristers and solicitors) and others who have been approved by the Court and issued with a username and password. The Court file may be accessed and used online at any time from any location via the internet: by solicitors for filing, and by solicitors and counsel and others for viewing and using all documents in a proceeding (e.g. filed documents, transcripts and orders).

The system is designed with simplicity as a central feature (see diagram below). For most users it will require little or no training.

Measured efficiencies

RedCrest will provide time-saving and cost efficiency features for the legal profession and the public (see table p31).

To measure time savings, the Court commissioned a productivity analysis by the Department of Justice in 2012. The outcomes of the research are summarised in the table opposite. In the examples provided, an assumption is made that a four-day trial is being conducted in a judge-managed list.

Expanded modes of interaction

A Court file in RedCrest is readily accessible to the Court, legal practitioners and litigants around the clock via the RedCrest public homepage.11 This will enable local, interstate or international participants to have access to monitor and work with documents filed in the proceeding from wherever they are in the world. By a system of automatically generated emails, all participants in the litigation can be kept informed and updated to the minute with developments and further filings.

A facility to “cut and paste” from online filed documents will assist the Court to produce judgments, legal professionals to prepare advices and submissions, and litigants to give instructions.

The various features and systems of RedCrest, together with instructions on access and use, will be set out in the instruction manual and the training film, available online from the RedCrest public homepage.

“Big Data” management

The RedCrest system will include facilities to handle large-volume documents such as large court books or exhibits containing many documents or documents containing a high volume of data. These will include bulk uploading and online search facilities. For multiple large volume documents (e.g. large exhibits or court books), rather than a filing party having to upload each document, with consequences for time and cost, RedCrest will provide for bulk uploading of documents for filing into RedCrest. Online searches of “Big Data” documents may be undertaken in RedCrest by the use of a number of sophisticated search facilities.

Other systems provided by third party providers may operate in conjunction with RedCrest to provide a discovery facility by computer assisted review (to determine the relevance of documents to be provided on discovery) and an electronic trial management facility.

Education

It is recognised that a well-developed program of public and legal profession education needs to be planned, introduced and budgeted to ensure the success of any new electronic case management system.

In the case of RedCrest, an education program will provide for initial and continuing training by the use of a “help desk” combined with online facilities and an initial program of public introductions. Initially the help desk will be maintained by the RedCrest project team and a dedicated RedCrest coordinator. Over time, ongoing user support will be provided by the Commercial Court Registry with the RedCrest coordinator providing second level support and system administration.

In the initial phase, from 1 July 2014, RedCrest will commence online operation for training purposes. From this time, until full operation commences on 1 August 2014, the system will go live with sample training cases loaded into the system, but new cases will not be accepted for filing. Usernames and passwords will be issued during the training period to gain access to the full system beyond the public homepage.

Conclusion

Mention must be made of the central role of the modern judge in managing delay and ensuring timeliness. Without strong judicial management all the technology in the world will not ensure timeliness—the practice of modern litigation needs both. The judge is needed to overcome what are endemic tendencies in an adversarial system of justice—cost and delay. Technology is a very important tool for the Court in this endeavour, but it is not the only answer.

Second, IT projects are never finished. They remain work in progress. This is a continuing cost that needs to be considered and budgeted for.12 In this rapidly changing era of advancing technology, perhaps the most that can be said is that no IT system or innovation can freeze future development. Conceptually this must apply to RedCrest as much as to any other electronic management process. Open mindedness to embrace new developments must prevail. As pungently expressed by Richard Susskind in his challenging book The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services,13 “Lawyers, in common with much of humanity, tend to find it difficult to grasp that there is no finishing line when it comes to IT and the internet. For the tidy mind and the control-freak alike, it is hard to accept that there are no clear parameters, limits, or finite pigeon-holes. Perhaps there is some pathological aversion, hardwired into the legal mind, to the inevitability of ongoing advancement in technology, to the notion that no system or innovation can be the last word”.

The Court welcomes continuing input from the profession to keep abreast of developments and desirable upgrades for the system




JUSTICE PETER VICKERY is a Judge of the trial division of the Supreme Court of Victoria. He is Judge in Charge of the Technology, Engineering and Construction List and the RedCrest Project for the Court.

1. Global Village is a term generally associated with Marshall McLuhan, popularised in his books The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) and Understanding Media (1964).

2. Internet World Stats, www.internetworldstats.com/emarketing.htm, last observed 30 April 2014.

3. See: G E Moore, “Cramming more components into integrated circuits”, (1965) 38(8) Electronics, cited by Richard Susskind, The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, OUP, 2008, p61.

4. One terabyte is 1000 gigabytes of data.

5. “Meat pie” statistics is a phrase coined by Heerey J in the nine-month trial of Russell Henderson & Ors v Amadio Pty Ltd [1995] FCA 1029. The term was no doubt inspired by interesting trivia arising from Grand Final football matches conducted in Melbourne each year (e.g. the number of meat pies consumed on the day).

6. The Technology Division is part of the Department of Innovation, Services, Small Business and Technology.

7. RedCrest will initially be used for Commercial List matters (Order 2 of Chapter 11); TEC List matters (Order 3 of Chapter 11); judge managed (not associate judge managed) Corporations matters (Chapter V); and Intellectual Property List matters (Order 2 of Chapter V111).

8. RedCrest is constructed on the Microsoft SharePoint program which has been in place in the market since 2002 and has been further developed. The latest iteration is the 2013 model.

9. See: Professor Bent Flyvbjerg “Why Your IT Project May Be Riskier Than You Think”, co-author Alexander Budzier, Harvard Business Review, September 2011.

10. Confined for the present to judge managed (not associate judge managed) matters entered in the Commercial List, the TEC List, the IP List and the Corporations List (as in note 7 above).

11. The RedCrest public homepage will also be directly accessible from the SCV website.

12. For example: the upgrades of the US Bankruptcy Court Southern District of New York and the Integrated Electronic Litigation System (iELS) or eLitigation (eLit) initiative by the Singapore judiciary to replace the existing Electronic Filing System (EFS) which has been in use since 2000.

13. Richard Susskind The End of Lawyers? Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services, OUP, 2008, p61.

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