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June 11, 2024 Introduction

Technology and the Administration of Justice

Judge Victor A. Bolden

This Technology, Part II, issue of The Judges’ Journal provides insight into two important trends with respect to technology and the access to justice. First, during the coronavirus (COVID) pandemic, and even after the pandemic’s effects have abated significantly, judges at both the federal and state levels have embraced technology to ensure the administration of justice. In doing so, judges have shown themselves to be increasingly capable of meeting the challenges of providing access to justice today. Second, the pace of rapid technological advancement, particularly in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), will require judges to learn much more and to do so even faster. The existing and still-emerging technologies present both opportunities and challenges to ensuring justice on one of the most fundamental issues: What is and is not evidence?

More specifically, as to this issue, three articles describe the efforts undertaken and still being undertaken by the judiciary at both the state and federal levels to use technology to facilitate the administration of justice.

On the federal level, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert M. Spector, and two U.S. bankruptcy judges, Judge Daniel P. Collins and Judge Christopher J. Panos, detail the impact of technological changes in the administration of justice in federal courts.

In “It’s Settled: How Technology Has Helped Magistrate Judges Be More Efficient and Effective,” Judge Spector describes how, for U.S. magistrate judges, the COVID pandemic “changed everything,” and how “some of those changes have significantly improved every aspect of our jobs, particularly for settlement conferences, discovery hearings, and criminal duties.” For settlement conferences, the use of remote technology, such as Zoom, can result in savings in travel costs; time, in terms of how soon a settlement conference can be scheduled; and time, in terms of how long the settlement conference may take. For discovery conferences, Judge Spector has seen similar efficiencies emerge. With criminal hearings, the increased use of electronic signatures for search warrants, arrest warrants, and other criminal filings facilitated not only the signing process but also the editing process. In Judge Spector’s view, he “can accomplish more, in less time, and with fewer distractions by relying on videoconferencing where appropriate and continuing to conduct in-person hearings where necessary.”

In “Bankruptcy Courts and the Post-Pandemic Use of Courtroom Audio- and Videoconferencing Technology,” Judges Collins and Panos note that “most Americans who meet a federal judge will encounter a bankruptcy judge.” And even “[b]efore the pandemic, bankruptcy courts routinely conducted non-evidentiary hearings in person, by telephone, or using remote video technology.” During the pandemic, this use of remote technology expanded to meet the needs of that time, and since the end of emergency measures allowing certain uses, bankruptcy judges “continue to balance increased access and efficiencies afforded by audio- and videoconferencing technologies with the administration of justice and the truth-finding role of the courts.”

On the state level, “Pandemic Policymaking in State Supreme Courts: Implications for the Administration of Justice,” Alyx Mark describes and discusses how “state high courts paved the way for temporary policy changes via the removal of the traditional barriers to procedural and operational innovation.” In her view, these crisis-inspired experiments “led to formal rule changes that will continue beyond the pandemic at the state level.”

Notwithstanding the capacity of the nation’s judiciary to embrace emerging technology, even more challenges lie ahead. In our opening article, Finally, in “Regulating Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy: The Case for Judicial Oversight and the Bipartisan Model Legislation Passed in Maryland,” Tebah Browne and Barry Scheck explain how recent technological advances in genealogical testing expand the capacity of law enforcement to identify a “putative perpetrator” and help in “solving cold cases, exonerating the wrongly convicted, and finding the source of unidentified human remains.” But they express caution about the civil liberty implications of this technology and counsel both involvement by the judiciary as well as appropriate legislative action.

In “Beyond the Mysterious: Forensic Science Standards and the Law,” Dana M. Delger and John Paul Jones II urge “the judiciary to move beyond the mysterious into scientific understanding,” in part, by understanding better the work of the Organization of Scientific Area Committees in developing standards for the use of forensic evidence. In their view, judges who have an understanding of these standards and the processes that are used to create them will be better equipped to understand and manage the scientific analysis of evidence that litigants seek to admit or preclude in their courtrooms.

Finally, in “The Impending Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Digital Forensics,” Michael C. Maschke explores “how the rise and usage of AI may positively and negatively affect the digital forensics field.” Because AI can accelerate the processing and analysis of data, courts and those who present such evidence to courts—digital forensics examiners—must be prepared to deal with this evidence, most importantly, by ensuring its authenticity.

In sum, the Technology, Part II, issue provides a glimpse of where our courts are today with respect to technology and a peek—perhaps—at where courts may need to go next.

Judge Victor A. Bolden

U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut

Judge Victor A. Bolden is a district judge with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. He is also a member of The Judges’ Journal Editorial Board.

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