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Gateway to better court service

News

Cite as: (2008) 82(9) LIJ, p. 22

The adoption of a joint case management system by the Family, Federal and Federal Magistrates Courts has transformed the interaction between the courts and their clients.

Life has just got a whole lot easier for legal professionals in the Commonwealth courts, thanks to a new internet-based service which allows them to access information about cases from a single portal.

The Commonwealth Courts Portal (http://www.comcourts.gov.au/access/login), launched in June, allows external users to engage with the court systems directly and search for information themselves outside normal business hours and without assistance from court counter staff.

“The portal will make life so much easier for lawyers – from their office they will be able to keep track of their cases, including documents filed and future events, as well as outcomes and orders made,” Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant said.

The web-based gateway was made possible when the Family, Federal and Federal Magistrates Courts all adopted Casetrack, a case management system developed by the Family Court, and shared the infrastructure on which the system is based.

The portal will also allow documents and applications to be lodged online.

Wisewoulds consultant Mark Yorston described the portal as “the first step in really transforming the way solicitors are going to carry out their work for clients in the future”.

“It is the start of computer-driven litigation where you have the ability to file electronically, have the documents stored in the court electronically and, from an environmental point of view, it is a great step forward,” he said.

He said a future e-court for relatively simple and straightforward matters would be a “fabulous” development, especially for remote practitioners.

Richard Calley Family Lawyers solicitor Adrian Stone said the portal tied together a swathe of information that had previously been more difficult to access, and presented it in a more user-friendly fashion.

“When clients ring up you can bring up court dates very quickly and talk about things that have happened straight away, which often makes a client feel more comfortable that you really are aware of what is going on with their matter at each point in time,” he said.

“Every matter that you are involved in, and every matter that you want to have as part of your diary and your bookmark, is there as soon as you log in, and being able to give access rights to others such as barristers is obviously an advantage.”

Chief Federal Magistrate John Pascoe said the portal will be of significant benefit to people in rural and regional areas who will no longer have to travel to a registry or engage agents in the city to file their court documents.

Legal practitioners, through their firm, will be able to search for information in any of the three courts through a single user ID and password.

The portal authorises an administrator for the firm who can then register individual users. This means a firm can control who has access to which of its files.

A system of payment is being developed in consultation with users to take account of the different needs of self-represented litigants as well as major international
law firms.

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